J.B. Bickerstaff

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Ball, Pacers, Pistons

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has talked to president of basketball operations Koby Altman about possible additions to his coaching staff, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber-only link), who says Bickerstaff keeps a running list of potential targets that he adds to every year.

Sources tell Fedor that Bickerstaff would be looking for a well-rounded candidate with experience, and wouldn’t necessarily be seeking an offensive coordinator. Fedor identifies Steve Clifford, Paul Hewitt, Chad Forcier, Tyrone Corbin, and David Fizdale as some names to watch, though some of those coaches may not be inclined to leave their current positions for an assistant role with the Cavaliers.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Longtime Chicago media personality David Kaplan said during his ESPN 1000 radio show that the Bulls‘ front office has “serious concerns” about Lonzo Ball‘s left knee injury and that the issue could impact how the team approaches its offseason (link via NBC Sports Chicago). There have been no concrete updates on Ball’s troublesome knee injury since he said in late April that his rehab was “kind of at a standstill” and that he planned to visit a specialist.
  • The Pacers could end up picking anywhere from No. 1 to No. 9 as a result of Tuesday’s draft lottery, but one thing is certain: Indiana will have its first top-10 pick since 1989. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Insider link) takes a look at the end of an unusually long streak, which Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard calls an “exciting opportunity” for the franchise.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic looks at some potential second-round targets the Pistons could consider at No. 46, starting with Alabama wing Keon Ellis.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Nembhard, P. Williams, Key, Vildoza

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was fined $15K on Monday for his public criticism of the league’s officiating, the NBA announced in a press release. Bickerstaff griped about the foul calls on Sunday following a 112-108 loss to Philadelphia in which James Harden and Joel Embiid combined to attempt 32 free throws.

“We deserved to win that game. That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “We did a great job defensively, making their two best players have a difficult time from the field. But one thing you can’t defend is the free throw line. That’s absurd. That’s absurd. Our guys deserve way better than what they got tonight.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • RJ Nembhard‘s new contract with the Cavaliers is a straight-up conversion from his two-way deal, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. Nembhard, who will earn $58,493 on the prorated minimum-salary contract, remains on track for restricted free agency this offseason.
  • Having returned from a wrist injury on March 21, Patrick Williams is playing increasingly well for the Bulls as the postseason nears, according to Cole Huff of The Athletic, who says the second-year forward has been “efficient and opportunistic” on offense while showcasing his usual versatility on the defensive end. Having already displayed the potential to be a long-term cornerstone in Chicago, Williams could help in the short term too and be an asset in the playoffs if he keeps progressing, Huff writes.
  • Braxton Key‘s new two-way contract with the Pistons is a two-year agreement, covering 2022/23 as well as the rest of this season, league sources tell our JD Shaw (Twitter link).
  • Luca Vildoza‘s two-year deal with the Bucks will be non-guaranteed for next season, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Central Notes: LaVine, Turner, Bickerstaff, Rondo

Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine previously said that he won’t know in advance whether he’ll be able to play back-to-back games going forward. Chicago continues to monitor him daily, but coach Billy Donovan said that LaVine’s knee has been feeling much better since the All-Star break (Twitter links via Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago).

After playing against the Hawks on Thursday, LaVine didn’t appear on Chicago’s injury report on Friday and suited up for both ends of the back-to-back against the Bucks. He finished the game with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but the Bulls dropped their fourth straight in a 118-112 loss. Chicago is now the No. 4 seed in the East with a 39-25 record.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Pacers center Myles Turner has been sidelined since January 14 after suffering a stress reaction in his left foot, but he’s making progress in his rehab, as James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star relays. Turner posted an Instagram video of himself running for the first time since the injury. He was doing defensive slides in another video, apparently at Detroit’s practice facility. Indiana lost at Detroit 111-106 on Friday night. There’s no official timetable for Turner’s return.
  • Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff was fined $20K by the NBA for inappropriate language directed at officials and refusing to leave the court in a timely manner during Wednesday’s 119-98 loss to the Hornets, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Bickerstaff was ejected after receiving two technical fouls early in the third quarter. The Cavs have dropped six of their past seven games after Friday’s 125-119 loss to the Sixers.
  • Cavaliers point guard Rajon Rondo was upgraded from out to doubtful for Friday’s contest after participating in the team’s shootaround, but ultimately missed the game against Philadelphia. A source tells Fedor (Twitter link) that Rondo is “getting close” to a return, but isn’t quite ready yet. Rondo is eight days removed from suffering a sprained big toe which was expected to sideline him for about two weeks, so he’s apparently a little ahead of schedule in his recovery.

And-Ones: Giddey, Cunningham, Fitch, Bell, More

Thunder guard Josh Giddey has been named January’s Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference, while Pistons guard Cade Cunningham earned the honors for the Eastern Conference, the NBA announced on Wednesday (Twitter link). The other nominees can be found here.

With most of this season’s top rookies in the East, Giddey won the Western award for a third straight time. He averaged 13.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG on 14 games (33.2 MPG) for the Thunder in January, posting a shooting line of .443/.284/.786.

Cunningham is a first-time Rookie of the Month, joining Evan Mobley and Franz Wagner as the East’s award winners so far in 2021/22. The rising Pistons star got off to a slow start, but began to flash more potential in January, averaging 17.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 4.2 RPG on .420/.365/.879 shooting in 15 games (32.3 MPG).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The Suns‘ 13-1 performance in January earned head coach Monty Williams his second Coach of the Month nod of 2021/22, the NBA announced on Wednesday (via Twitter). Williams was also named the Western Conference’s Coach of the Month for October/November. J.B. Bickerstaff, whose Cavaliers had an 11-4 month, was the East’s Coach of the Month for January.
  • Hall-of-Famer Bill Fitch, a two-time Coach of the Year, has passed away at age 89, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein (Twitter link). Fitch coached the Cavaliers, Celtics, Rockets, Nets, and Clippers from 1970-98, winning a title with Boston in 1981.
  • Veteran NBA big man Jordan Bell was acquired this week by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers‘ G League affiliate, per a press release. The Mad Ants made a trade with the Santa Cruz Warriors – Golden State’s affiliate – to secure Bell’s NBAGL rights.
  • In an in-depth story for The Athletic, Joe Vardon details the series of logistical nightmares the Nigerian national team experienced en route to competing at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. As Vardon outlines, several assistant coaches who flew to Japan never made it into the Olympics and Nigeria nearly wasn’t able to play its first game after almost missing a necessary round of COVID-19 testing. The team entered the Olympics with medal aspirations, but lost all three of its round-robin games and was quickly eliminated.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Cunningham, Garza, Stephenson

The Cavaliers‘ improved play this season has put them in position to be unhappy after a win, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Victories have been rare in Cleveland over the past three seasons, but with the Cavs in fifth place in the East at 28-19, coach J.B. Bickerstaff is stressing the importance of a strong performance every night.

That’s why he was upset Saturday after watching his team struggle to put away the Thunder. Bickerstaff was displeased over a lack of effort and an offense that produced 23 turnovers and only 22 assists.

“It’s an understanding of the bigger picture of what we’re trying to get done and the seriousness of every game for us and what it means,” he said. “That’s part of our growth and maturation. There’s games like this where if you lose these games, you’re looking back in April and they matter.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Head coach Dwane Casey wants to take some of the ball-handling duties away from Cade Cunningham, who is running the offense and handling much of the scoring for the short-handed Pistons, per Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Injuries to Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk and Killian Hayes have resulted in Cunningham taking on a larger-than-expected share of the offense. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting him off the ball,” Casey said. “Find another ballhandler. When we get Kelly (Olynyk) back, get his time up as a point five, allowing Cade to play off the ball a little more and that’ll take the pressure off Cade, because to bring the ball down the floor, create his own shot, that’s too much.”
  • Pistons rookie center Luka Garza has cleared the health and safety protocols and is focused on reconditioning so he can start playing again, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • The Pacers have to make a decision on Lance Stephenson, whose 10-day contract expires tonight, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Stephenson joined the team under the hardship provision at the start of January, but because all of Indiana’s players cleared protocols by the time that deal expired, he had to sign a standard 10-day contract. The Pacers have the options of giving him another 10-day deal or signing him for the rest of the season. He has averaged 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 11 games.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, White, Bulls, Sykes

The Cavaliers awarded coach J.B. Bickerstaff with a lucrative Christmas present, extending him through the 2026/27 season. Continuity on the coaching staff will allow the team’s young core to grow, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic opines. It also ensures that the positive culture Bickerstaff has built will become a fixture.

“It’s meaningful to know that you’re with an organization and with a group of people that believe in you and believe in what we’re building and what we’re working towards,” the Cavaliers’ head coach said. “When you have that support, it just gives you more confidence to go out and do the job that you see fit.”

We have more from thee Central Division:

  • Bulls guard Coby White admits he’s having a rough season, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. White missed the first 13 games this season while rehabbing a shoulder injury and spent five games in COVID-19 protocols. Now, he’s adjusting to a new off-the-ball role. “It’s been difficult. I ain’t going to lie and say it’s been easy. It hasn’t been easy,” said White, who is in the third year of his rookie deal. Chicago has already exercised its option on his contract for next season.
  • The Bulls have been very aggressive on the trade and free agent markets since last season’s trade deadline. Look for them to make something happen before this year’s Feb. 10 trade deadline, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times opines. Derrick Jones, Troy Brown and White are potential trade candidates and there will be an increasing number of teams with dim playoff hopes willing to make a move.
  • The Pacers signed Keifer Sykes to a new contract on Monday. According to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto (Twitter link), it’s a two-year deal and the second year includes a team option.

Cavaliers Extend J.B. Bickerstaff Through 2026/27

10:11am: Bickerstaff’s extension is now official, the Cavaliers confirmed in a press release. The team didn’t announce the terms of the deal, simply referring to it as a “multiyear” extension.


9:53am: The Cavaliers and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff have agreed to a long-term contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the new deal will keep Bickerstaff under team control through the 2026/27 season.

Bickerstaff took over as the Cavaliers’ head coach near the end of the 2019/20 campaign, replacing John Beilein. Since then, he has led the team to a 46-69 (.400) record.

That overall record since Bickerstaff took the reins is somewhat misleading. After going 22-50 last season, the Cavs are off to a 19-13 start in 2021/22, looking as dangerous as they have since LeBron James left the franchise in 2018.

The new-look Cavaliers, led by youngsters Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley and veteran point guard Ricky Rubio have the Eastern Conference’s best defensive rating so far this season. Bickerstaff, who has previous head coaching experience in Houston and Memphis, is being rewarded for the team’s turnaround.

Central Notes: Cunningham, Green, Pacers, Mobley

Pistons point guard Cade Cunningham is set to miss Detroit’s entire early-season road trip due to a lingering ankle injury, but could be ready to make his NBA debut on October 30 against the Magic, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Cunningham, 20, is apparently still dealing with some soreness.

“Last week, we made the decision to make sure we bring him back gradually, where he’d get some time with the G League team (the Motor City Cruise), practice with them, and get some reps with them,” head coach Dwane Casey said of the top draft pick out of Oklahoma State. “The medical people are holding back — and rightfully so… You don’t want to rush him back if it’s not 100%. That’s the one thing that they want to make sure of, that it was 100%, because there were certain movements he had that were still sore.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Reserve forward Javonte Green has already endeared himself to the Bulls faithful since coming over to Chicago at the 2021 trade deadline, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Tribune. “(Green is) one of the biggest energy guys we have,’’ Bulls starting point guard Lonzo Ball said. “Not only running the lane but playing defense. He can guard a lot of different positions, and he uses his hands very well… We definitely feed off of that when he comes into the game.’’
  • Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb and forward Oshae Brissett are proving their mettle as galvanizing scorers off the bench so far this season, according to Akeem Glaspie of The Indianapolis Star“A lot of the time the starters are not gonna be able to have it completely going and be able to make shots,” starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “But as long as we defend and the second team comes in and gives us some energy and a spark off the bench offensively, we’re gonna be fine.” Indiana is currently 1-2 in this young season.
  • Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his assistants have been showing film of some NBA legends to rookie big man Evan Mobley, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Mobley, the third pick in the 2021 draft out of USC, was utilized much like Hall of Fame big man Kevin Garnett on defense during a 101-95 Cleveland win over the Hawks. He has also watched game tape of future Hall of Fame power forward/center Dirk Nowitzki, as well as current All-Star bigs Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “He’s asking me to emulate them but knows I’m still my own player,” Mobley said about Bickerstaff’s strategy. “I try to play my game, take bits and pieces from them, but still be myself and play how I play.” Mobley, already the Cavaliers’ starting power forward, is averaging 15.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 2.3 BPG and 1.3 APG through three games. Cleveland is 1-2 in those contests.

Central Notes: Wanamaker, Windler, Markkanen, Nwora

Veteran point guard Brad Wanamaker signed a training camp deal with the Pacers this week and he’s out to prove he deserves a spot on the 15-man roster, David Woods of The Indianapolis Star writes.

“I didn’t come here just to come here,” Wanamaker said. “I came here to compete, show what I’m capable of and try to make the roster.”

Wanamaker has a shot to be the third point man behind Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Following two injury-riddled seasons, Dylan Windler is making his case for a rotation spot as the Cavaliers’ backup wing, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. Windler had 12 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes in Cleveland’s preseason game on Friday. “To be out here at the start of the season and contributing in the ways that I’m supposed to, it feels great,” he said. “I don’t control the rotations. That’s coach’s job. I’ve just got to come in, get my work in, do what I do and continue to prove myself when I get the opportunities.”
  • Lauri Markkanen will spend most of his time at power forward but Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff also plans to use him at small forward in jumbo lineups, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “It’s one of those things where I believe he’s one of our best players,” Bickerstaff said. “So we have to do what we can to get him on the floor so he can help us. His versatility helps. Right now, you see the strength of our bigs and the fact that they are so versatile and they can play next to each other, you can get them out there on the floor.”
  • Forward Jordan Nwora only appeared in 30 regular-season games with the Bucks during his rookie campaign but he’s angling for more playing time this season, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Coach Mike Budenholzer is looking for Nwora, a second-round pick in 2020, to become a more complete player. “I think, defensively, he’s making progress in practice, making progress in the games,” Budenholzer said. “He’s really got to improve on that end, and he’s making steps in the right direction.” Nwora will be a free agent next summer, either restricted if he receives a qualifying offer, or unrestricted.

Central Notes: Bulls, Bucks, Cavs Coaches, Pistons

The Bulls made a splash in free agency this summer, signing several new veteran players. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago breaks down the specific ways that costly new additions Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso can help Chicago earn its first postseason berth in five years.

Schaefer notes that DeRozan boasted the 21st-best offensive rating in the league last season (110.4) and can help boost the Bulls’ offense in a variety of ways. DeRozan’s ability to get to the free throw line, protect the ball, and create offense when Bulls All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine sits will all help Chicago win, Schaefer contends. Ball should help expedite the pace of Chicago’s offense. On the other end, stingy pick-and-roll defender Caruso should help the team limit opponents at the point of attack.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks‘ offseason earned a B grade from Zach Harper of The Athletic. The Bucks upgraded their backcourt depth in signing veteran point guard (and former Milwaukee reserve) George Hill, as well as Tremont Waters. Harper suggests that Milwaukee also improved on the wing by adding solid veterans Grayson Allen and Rodney Hood, who should be able to recover still-injured swingman Donte DiVincenzo. Harper opines that the Bucks regressed in the frontcourt after letting defensive-minded forward P.J. Tucker walk in free agency. Meanwhile, the Bucks stayed the same while preserving their 2020/21 center rotation.
  • The Cavaliers have made some new coaching adjustments, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Dan Geriot, formerly an assistant on head coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s bench, will become the head coach of the club’s NBAGL affiliate, the Cleveland Charge. Recent Charge head coach Nate Reinking, meanwhile, will join the Cavaliers as an assistant.
  • The rebuilding Pistons have some intriguing rotation decisions that could be informed by training camp performance, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois recognizes that Detroit’s top six players appear to be fairly established, but that there is room for minutes for the club’s developing young players beyond that.