Igor Kokoskov

Pacific Notes: Payne, Lecque, Kokoskov, Len

Cameron Payne recalls a brief conversation during his rookie year with Thunder assistant Monty Williams that led to his latest NBA opportunity, writes Gina Mizell in her Valley Tales Newsletter. Williams, now the head coach of the Suns, decided to take a chance on Payne when the team had a roster spot to fill prior to the restart.

“That (discussion) played into … my talks with (general manager James Jones about signing him),” Williams said. “I saw a young man who’s really talented, comes from a really good family and he takes coaching well.”

Payne’s career has featured a lot of disappointment after Oklahoma City made him a lottery pick in 2015. He battled through injuries and ineffective performance with the Thunder and Bulls, and had been out of the league since signing a pair of 10-day contracts with the Cavaliers last January. He had a brief stay in China this season, then joined the G League to help get his game back on track.

“I don’t want to see myself outside of this league again,” Payne said. “And the biggest way for me to do that is to be consistent, be on time and outwork the next guy. My whole thing is I want to leave on the court that I played my hardest. I gave my all. I never want to take no shortcuts anymore, because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth being on the outside looking in when you feel like you should be in there.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jalen Lecque participated in practice Saturday, giving the Suns a full roster for the first time since arriving in Orlando, Mizell tweets.
  • Assistant Igor Kokoskov left the Kings Saturday to begin his duties as head coach of Fenerbahce in the EuroLeague, the team announced in a press release. The former Suns head coach joined Luke Walton’s staff last summer. “I’d like to congratulate Igor on his promotion to head coach of Fenerbahce and thank him for his dedicated time with the Kings,” Walton said. “He has been a valuable member of my coaching staff and his natural ability to guide our players will continue to inspire the team as we move forward in Orlando. We wish him all the best.” 
  • Kings center Alex Len won’t play in Sunday’s game against the Magic because of conditioning issues, tweets Sean Cunningham of KXTV. Len was late reporting to the Walt Disney World campus after contracting COVID-19.

International Notes: Dekker, Kokoskov, Crawford, P. Jones

Panathinaikos is targeting former NBA forward Sam Dekker for next season, according to Stavros Barbarousis of Eurohoops. The Greek club is under new management and is considering Dekker as a possible replacement for Deshaun Thomas.

Dekker, 26, played for Lokomotiv Kuban this year, averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in the EuroCup and 11.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG in the VTB League. It was the first season outside the NBA for the former first-round pick after spending time with the Rockets, Clippers, Cavaliers and Wizards.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov was introduced today as the new head coach of Fenerbahce in the EuroLeague, according to EuroHoops. He reportedly received a three-year deal to take over the Turkish team. “I feel obligated to the Fenerbahce fans and the people who brought me here to give them the best of my abilities, experience and knowledge to help this club keep being successful as it is,” he said. “Fenerbahce fans love their basketball team, so we will give our best to keep them happy by winning lots of basketball games and trophies.” Kokoskov, who spent a season as head coach of the Suns, also coaches the Serbian National Team.
  • Jordan Crawford has signed a one-year deal with Lokomotiv Kuban, Barbarousis writes in a separate story. Crawford, 31, played for five teams in eight NBA seasons before moving overseas early last year. He played in Israel and China before spending part of this season with Brose Bamberg in Germany.
  • Former NBA first-round pick Perry Jones III will continue his career with Bursaspor in Turkey, tweets Nicola Lupo of Sportando. The 28-year-old spent three seasons with the Thunder.

Kings Assistant Igor Kokoskov To Coach Fenerbahce

Former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov has agreed in principle to become the new head coach of EuroLeague team Fenerbahce, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Ismail Senol of beIN Sports, who first reported the agreement, tweets that the two sides agreed to a three-year deal. Kokoskov will replace longtime Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic, a three-time EuroLeague Coach of the Year who parted ways with the Turkish club last week.

Kokoskov became the NBA’s first European-born head coach when he was hired by Phoenix in 2018 to replace Jay Triano. However, he lasted just a single season with the Suns before being replaced by Monty Williams. After interviewing for the Grizzlies’ head coaching vacancy in 2019, Kokoskov ultimately landed in Sacramento as the top assistant on Luke Walton‘s staff.

A native of Serbia, Kokoskov is currently the head coach of the country’s national team and will look to lead Serbia to a spot in the Tokyo Olympics next summer. He previously coached the Slovenian National Team, leading that club to a 2017 EuroBasket victory, and was also the head coach of the Georgian National Team from 2008-15.

Despite his agreement with Fenerbahce, Kokoskov will join the Kings in Orlando this summer and finish out the season with the team, tweets Jason Jones of The Athletic.

Pacific Notes: Bradley, Horton-Tucker, Evans, Kokoskov

Lakers guard Avery Bradley has been cleared for full contact, the team’s PR department tweets. Bradley started 10 games for the streaking Lakers, averaging 9.8 PPG, before suffering a lower right leg injury. He had a hairline fracture in a non-weight bearing bone. Bradley’s two-year, $9.8MM contract includes a $5MM player option.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker is trying to make the most of his G League appearances, he told David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Horton-Tucker is averaging 11.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.2 APG in 11 games with the South Bay Lakers. “I understand that I’m probably not going to get minutes with the Lakers right now,” Horton-Tucker said. “I feel like the G League has been great. It helps us get our reps in and it helps our careers get started.”
  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans is available to play on Monday after missing 21 games with an adductor strain, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Evans appeared in three games this season prior to the injury, averaging 6.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG. The former Cincinnati standout had his 2020/21 option picked up by Golden State in late October.
  • Former Suns coach and current Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov has no regrets about his draft input with Phoenix, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I will tell you that I sleep peacefully and peaceably,” Kokoskov said to Index regarding his recommendation for the Suns’ No. 1 overall pick in 2018. Kokoskov is believed to have wanted Luka Doncic, whom Kokoskov coached on the Slovenian National Team, but Suns owner Robert Sarver pushed for Deandre Ayton, Feldman adds.

Igor Kokoskov To Coach Serbian National Team

Former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov has been named the new head coach of the Serbian National Team, according to a press release. The move will put Kokoskov in position to coach Team Serbia next summer as the program attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.

Marc Stein of The New York Times, who reported the impending hiring of Kokoskov on Tuesday night, tweets that the Serbian program received permission from the Kings this week to hire the veteran assistant. Kokoskov will succeed Sasha Djordjevic, who resigned in September following the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Entering the World Cup this fall, Serbia was viewed as the most dangerous challenger to the United States, led by star center Nikola Jokic. However, Team Serbia had a disappointing showing, failing to claim a medal or a spot for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. One of the four Olympic qualifying tournaments next June will be held in Belgrade, so Kokoskov will need to lead the program to victory in that tournament to secure an Olympic berth.

A native of Serbia, Kokoskov previously coached the Slovenian National Team, leading that club to a 2017 EuroBasket victory over Serbia. He was also the head coach of the Georgian National Team from 2008-15.

More recently, Kokoskov became the NBA’s first European-born head coach when he was hired by the Suns in 2018/19. However, he lasted just a single season in Phoenix before being replaced by Monty Williams. After interviewing for the Grizzlies’ head coaching vacancy this spring, Kokoskov ultimately landed in Sacramento on Luke Walton‘s staff.

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Caroline, Fall, Kings’ Staff

Mychal Thompson, father of Warriors star Klay Thompson, said there’s “no question” Klay will re-sign with Golden State, Connor Letourneau‏ of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Warriors are expected to offer him a full five-year maximum deal worth nearly $190MM despite Thompson’s knee injury during Game 6 on Thursday. Thompson suffered a torn left ACL and is expected to miss most of next season.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

Kings To Hire Igor Kokoskov As Assistant Coach

The Kings will hire Igor Kokoskov as an assistant coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). He’ll serve under Sacramento’s new head coach Luke Walton.

Kokoskov spent last season as the head coach of the Suns. He was fired after just one season where the team went 19-63.

The coach previously spent time as an assistant with the Clippers and Jazz among other teams. He also has extensive experience coaching internationally.

Grizzlies To Interview Tibbetts For Coaching Job

The Grizzlies have been granted permission to interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching vacancy, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Tibbetts has been on other teams’ lists recently during their head coaching searches. He was expected to be interviewed by the Cavaliers, but they chose Michigan coach John Beilein before that potential meeting. Tibbetts interviewed with the Suns before they selected Monty Williams. He was also one of four finalists for the Hawks job last summer that went to Lloyd Pierce.

Memphis, which parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff after the season, has already interviewed at least three other candidates for the job — former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t filled its head coaching vacancy.

Grizzlies Interview Igor Kokoskov

Former Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov is the latest candidate to interview for the head coaching vacancy in Memphis, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Kokoskov was fired last month after just one season with Phoenix, leading the Suns to a 19-63 record, which tied for the second-worst mark in the league. He reportedly had two years remaining on the contract he signed last summer.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins are the only other known candidates to interview with the Grizzlies. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies and Timberwolves are the only teams currently conducting coaching searches. The Kings, Suns, Lakers and Cavaliers have already filled their vacancies.

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.