J.B. Bickerstaff

Southwest Rumors: Potapenko, Cousins, Mavs Draft, Rockets

Vitaly Potapenko and Greg Buckner are among the assistants named to J.B. Bickerstaff’s staff with the Grizzlies, according to a team press release. Potapenko had been the Cavaliers’ assistant director of player development since 2013, while Buckner is a holdover from last season’s staff. As previously announced, Jerry Stackhouse will also be a top assistant for Bickerstaff. Stackhouse, who coached the Raptors’ G League the past two seasons, interviewed for several head coaching jobs. Chad Forcier, an assistant under Frank Vogel with the Magic the last two seasons, has also joined the staff along with Nick Van Exel and Adam Mazarei.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • DeMarcus Cousins will most likely stay put with the Pelicans but there are three other Western Conference teams where the big man would be a good fit, HoopsHype tweets. The Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs are the most likely landing spots for Cousins if he leaves New Orleans, HoopsHype adds.
  • A draft night trade with the Bulls might make sense for the Mavericks, Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News speculates. Dallas owns the No. 5 pick with Chicago slotted at No. 7. If Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young go a little higher than anticipated, the Mavs could move down and either Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter or Jaren Jackson would still be on the board, Cowlishaw points out.
  • Rockets fans should lower their expectations of potentially landing LeBron James or Paul George and simply hope GM Daryl Morey can upgrade a  luxury-tax team with precious few young assets, Sean Deveney of Sports Illustrated opines. Giving Chris Paul a max contract will be a tough pill but one they’ll have to swallow to remain a prime contender, Deveney adds.

Grizzlies Owner Talks 2018/19, Goals, Bickerstaff

The Grizzlies‘ 22-win season in 2017/18 was their worst showing since they posted an identical record in 2007/08, and snapped a streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances. However, controlling owner Robert Pera sounds confident that Memphis’ struggles last season can be primarily attributed to injuries and bad luck, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details. Pera expects the club to be “competitive” once again in 2018/19, assuming it can stay healthier.

Pera asserted those expectations during an appearance on the Grind City Media podcast on the club’s official site, with Tillery passing along some of the highlights. As Tillery observes, the conversation didn’t touch on a number of issues that other local reporters might like to press Pera on, including David Fizdale‘s firing, Chandler Parsons‘ contract, and further details of the buy/sell process that allowed Pera to retain control of the franchise.

Still, Pera made a few interesting comments during the discussion. Here they are, via Tillery:

On his expectations for the 2018/19 season:

“Assuming Marc [Gasol] and Mike [Conley] come back healthy, I think we have a couple of surrounding pieces that are younger players that are going to make a positive impact. We’ll get another good player in this draft. I see no reason why we can’t return to being a 50-win plus team.”

On his goals now that he’s firmly entrenched as the Grizzlies’ controlling owner:

“I’d like to put my stamp on the team more now that the ownership situation is resolved. I’d like to apply some of the skills that made my company, Ubiquiti, successful. I also realize it’s a little bit different. With my company, I can make all the decisions on the long-term (vision). I can be kind of a dictator. With the team, there’s more elements than just the long-term picture. You have to have some transparency with the fans. … How you handle the media and the fans are almost as important as the long-term goals. It took me some time to find my bearings the last several years.”

On what it means to put his stamp on the franchise:

“The goal for the Grizzlies is that people know that if they take a player or find a player, this is [the] best organization in the league for realizing that player’s potential.”

On the promotion of J.B. Bickerstaff to the permanent head coaching position:

“We’ve had turnover in the head coaching spot and J.B. brings some continuity. The players have worked with him and the players all love him. He’s very transparent. He carries himself really well. He’ll compromise when he sees it’s best for the organization. I have confidence in him to be that centerpiece of the culture we want to build. He’s a great fit.”

Southwest Notes: Forcier, Capela, Rondo

The Grizzlies are finalizing a deal to bring Chad Forcier aboard as the lead assistant to recently appointed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports writes.

Forcier most recently spent two years with the Magic but bounced around between some formidable Pistons, Pacers and Spurs teams from 2001 to 2016. In 2014, he won a title with San Antonio.

The Grizzlies formally announced their decision to give former interim head coach Bickerstaff the permanent head coaching gig earlier this week.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • For the fourth consecutive season, Clint Capela has rounded out his game. Now the 23-year-old plays a pivotal role for the contending Rockets and has established a foundation of trust with teammate James Harden, Tim MacMahon of ESPN documents the big man’s rise ahead of his pending free agency.
  • Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo sounds open to the idea of returning to the Pelicans, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated writes. Rondo has played for four teams since 2014 but has performed particularly well, especially in the postseason, with New Orleans. Still, it may be tricky for the team to bring him back if he requires a sizable raise, since the Pelicans only hold his Non-Bird rights.
  • There’s no denying that Ben McLemore‘s first season with the Grizzlies was somewhat underwhelming but the 25-year-old remains convinced that his best basketball is ahead of him. Michael Wallace of Grind City Media writes that, in his defense, the swingman has had six head coaches in six seasons but notes that the Grizz may be wise to move on from the $5.5MM they owe him next season if possible.

 

 

Grizzlies Notes: Evans, Chalmers, Bickerstaff

Throughout the entire second-half of the 2017/18 NBA season (i.e. after the trade deadline), the Grizzlies have maintained that they plan to re-sign guard Tyreke Evans to a new deal this summer, most likely with an offer for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth an estimated $8.6MM for the 2018/19 season.

This is because the Grizzlies only possess Non-Bird Rights on Evans, meaning the most they could pay him next season without the MLE or cap room is $3.948MM, 120% more than the $3.29MM he made this season.

And while the optimism in Memphis has not yet publicly waned, Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com writes that general manager Chris Wallace didn’t sound as convincing after the season that a successful pitch would be made to Evans in free agency as he did when he said the same thing after Evans was retained at the trade deadline.

As Wallace points out, Evans is unfortunately probably just as likely to sign a deal similar to Lou Williams – which would fit under the MLE – as he is to signing a one-year, high-paying contract, a la Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, for a team looking to clear cap space for the summer of 2019.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • In another article for Grizzlies.com, Wallace focuses on veteran Mario Chalmers‘ pending free agency, writing that the soon to be 32-year-old point guard is likely only to return to the Grizzlies, if at all, as an end-of-free-agency option, likely on another minimum-salary contract.
  • New head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has not yet made any decisions on who he plans to hire onto his coaching staff, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Bickerstaff was just yesterday officially named head coach.
  • In a full article for The Commercial Appeal, Tillery reports that franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol is pleased with the hiring of Bickerstaff. “J.B. deserves a real shot at this without any restrictions,” Gasol said. “He has earned it… He’s always so positive. He always helps me understand, ‘Do your job. Control what you can control and the rest will take care of itself.’ Our communication has been really good. We’re both going in the same direction. And that’s important.” Both Gasol and Mike Conley were known supporters of Bickerstaff, so Gasol’s contentment should come as no surprise.

Grizzlies Officially Name J.B. Bickerstaff Head Coach

The Grizzlies have made official what we learned last Thursday, announcing today in a press release that they’ve named J.B. Bickerstaff their permanent head coach. Bickerstaff had been serving as the club’s interim coach since replacing David Fizdale early in the 2017/18 regular season.

“J.B. did an admirable job as interim head coach last season in what was a challenging set of circumstances,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement. “J.B. has connected with our players and earned their respect throughout his time in Memphis, and we have been pleased with his role in developing our young players. We are excited to see him coach with a full offseason and a healthy roster next season.”

Reports last week indicated that Bickerstaff’s new deal with the Grizzlies will cover three years, though Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets that the third year is a team option. If Grizzlies management likes what it sees from Bickerstaff in 2018/19, that option will probably be exercised before the 2019/20 season begins in order to avoid having the head coach enter that year as a lame duck.

After making seven straight appearances in the postseason, the Grizzlies fell out of playoff contention early in the 2017/18 campaign, battling through injuries to key players like Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, and Chandler Parsons. Memphis went 15-48 with Bickerstaff at the helm, ultimately finishing with a 22-60 record. It was the NBA’s second-worst mark.

The Grizzlies will hold a formal press conference on Wednesday to re-introduce Bickerstaff as head coach.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Leonard, Spurs, Bickerstaff

Grizzlies center Deyonta Davis is heading into a make-or-break offseason, according to Michael Wallace of the Grizzlies’ website. Davis has one more guaranteed year on his contract at $1.544MM but the Grizzlies might use their top-five lottery pick on another big man to eventually take Marc Gasol‘s place. Davis needs to be more assertive and dominate in Summer League games in order to solidify his NBA future, Wallace continues. His passive play and lack of energy was a big reason why he showed little to no progress in his second season, Wallace adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs had two members in their organization in New York while Kawhi Leonard rehabbed his quad injury there, David Aldridge of NBA.com reports. That shows the team and Leonard’s representatives had regular communication despite the rift between the two parties. However, the disconnect appears to go well beyond whether Leonard should have returned to action, Aldridge adds.
  • The Spurs’ string of 21 straight postseason appearances could end next season if Leonard forces their hand and they trade him, Sean Deveney of Sporting News opines. The player option decisions of guard Danny Green and forward Rudy Gay will also impact where the team’s future is headed, Deveney continues. The team needs to add younger players and draft picks, especially if they put Leonard on the block, Deveney adds.
  • Removing the interim tag from J.B. Bickerstaff was the right move for the Grizzlies, Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal opines. He earned the respect of the team’s top veterans, Gasol and Mike Conley, and the younger role players showed improvement after he replaced David Fizdale, Calkins continues. The franchise is intent on returning to the playoffs next season and there was no need to have the current roster adjust to a new voice, Calkins adds.

Grizzlies, J.B. Bickerstaff Agree To Three-Year Contract

The Grizzlies and J.BBickerstaff have agreed to a three-year deal that will make him the team’s permanent head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Bickerstaff spent most of the 2017/18 season as the interim head coach for the Grizzlies.

Earlier today, we passed along word that the Grizzlies and Bickerstaff were engaged in discussions on a deal that would elevate him to the franchise’s full-time head coaching role. Bickerstaff assumed the interim job following the in-season dismissal of David Fizdale. However, the Grizzlies dealt with several injuries to key players, including Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, and Chandler Parsons, falling out of playoff contention early in the year.

Memphis went 15-48 with Bickerstaff at the helm, ultimately finishing with a 22-60 record. It was the NBA’s second-worst mark in 2017/18.

Despite the Grizzlies’ poor record under Bickerstaff, the veteran coach made a strong impression on team management, writes Wojnarowski. Bickerstaff also received praise from Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ two leading players, during the club’s end-of-season exit interviews. Conley said that Bickerstaff “deserves this job,” while Gasol praised his ability to handle adversity.

The new agreement will give Bickerstaff the opportunity to enter a season as a team’s head coach for the first time. The 39-year-old, who has also served as an assistant for the Bobcats, Timberwolves, and Rockets, has been an interim head coach twice, having also stepped into that role after Houston dismissed Kevin McHale during the 2015/16 campaign.

The Grizzlies are poised to become the first team to finalize a deal with a new permanent head coach this offseason, though the fact that they stuck with their interim coach obviously gave them a leg up in the process. No reports since the end of the regular season linked Memphis to any other candidates for the position.

Luke Adams contributed to this story. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Grizzlies, J.B. Bickerstaff Working On New Deal

The Grizzlies and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff are engaged in serious discussions on a new deal that would make Bickerstaff the team’s permanent head coach, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal confirms Charania’s report, tweeting that he expects Bickerstaff to get a two- or three-year contract.

As we relayed on Wednesday night, there was a growing sense in recent weeks that the Grizzlies would ultimately decide to retain Bickerstaff, who took over the job during the 2017/18 season after David Fizdale was dismissed. In the two weeks since the regular season ended, Memphis hadn’t been linked to a single head coaching candidate, and Robert Pera‘s decision to retain control of the franchise was believed to bode well for Bickerstaff.

Bickerstaff’s first 63 games as head coach of the Grizzlies weren’t a rousing success, as he led the team to a 15-48 mark. Still, he was missing key players like Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Tyreke Evans for big chunks of the year, and was ultimately evaluated more for his ability to develop the team’s young players than his win-loss record.

Franchise mainstays Conley and Marc Gasol both endorsed Bickerstaff for the long-term head coaching job at season’s end, with Conley telling reporters that the former Rockets head coach “deserves this job.” Gasol praised Bickerstaff’s ability to handle adversity throughout a tough season.

“He’s done a tremendous job with the tools he was given and with what he was allowed to do,” Gasol said. “Through all the mess and the situation, he€’s done a great job.”

Grizzlies To Retain J.B. Bickerstaff As Head Coach?

As our 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker demonstrates, there has been little to no news regarding the Grizzlies’ search for a new head man. Moreover, Memphis hasn’t been linked to any new coaching candidates.

But as reported by Real GM, Marc Stein of The New York Times recently stated on the Dunc’d on Podcast that his sources believe interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will remain as head coach of the Grizzlies next season.

“I can’t remember the last time somebody brought up the Grizzlies,” said Stein. “(Grizzlies owner) Robert Pera, maybe he has a surprise in store. I can just tell you, basically everyone I talk to is operating under the assumption J.B. Bickerstaff is going to be brought back. Ultimately, we’ll see until we get an announcement from the team that’s the case it’s official.”

There hasn’t been any official word on the Grizzlies being close to hiring Bickerstaff, but there appears to be sources within the NBA who strongly believe Bickerstaff will be coaching in Memphis next season.

Grizzlies Rumors: Wallace, Bickerstaff, Evans, Gasol

The Grizzlies were viewed as a borderline playoff contender coming into the 2017/18 season, but dealt with injuries to key players like Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, and ultimately finished the year as the league’s second-worst team. Despite Memphis’ disappointing results – and some questionable draft decisions and roster moves in recent years – GM Chris Wallace says he’s not expecting ownership to make any major front office changes this offseason.

“I understand the frustration of this past year,” Wallace said, per Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “But, I’m not going to take sole credit for this, the front office teams I’ve presided over won the most ever games in the history of this franchise. We were seven straight years in the playoffs. We also brought in four of what I call the extended Mount Rushmore or six most important players in of the franchise. One year out of the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of touch and no longer capable of doing the job.”

As for Wallace’s expectations for the coming offseason and the 2018/19 campaign? He fully expects the Grizzlies to bounce back from a dismal 2017/18 showing.

“The plan on the short-term side of it is to get back in the swing of things,” Wallace said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a very viable competitive team next year. … I’m excited about next year. I think we’ll be a pretty good team next year.”

The Grizzlies’ end-of-season sessions with the media resulted in a few more interesting tidbits, so let’s round them up…

  • As Tillery details, star players Conley and Marc Gasol both endorsed J.B. Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies’ interim head coach, who is considered a strong candidate for the permanent job. “He’s done a tremendous job with the tools he was given and with what he was allowed to do,” Gasol said. “Through all the mess and the situation, he€’s done a great job.” Conley simply told reporters that Bickerstaff “deserves this job.”
  • Wallace didn’t commit to sticking with Bickerstaff for 2018/19, but he offered praise of his own for David Fizdale‘s replacement, per Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal. “I thought guys developed, they got better, and I give him credit,” Wallace said. “It’s not an easy assignment they were given in difficult circumstances. … The losses obviously piled up, you can’t point to any gaudy record, but you watch them day to day, step by step, practice by practice, there was improvement and everybody stayed on point and did not wallow in the fact that it was a difficult situation.”
  • According to Tillery, the Grizzlies remain hopeful that they’ll be able to re-sign Tyreke Evans using their mid-level exception this July. That was the plan reported back in February when Memphis opted to hang onto Evans through the trade deadline.
  • With Robert Pera poised to remain the controlling owner of the Grizzlies, Gasol plans on meeting with him this offseason to discuss the direction of the franchise, according to Calkins. “You want to hear what – now, knowing that Robert has full control again, and that he’s fully committed, not only to the team, but to the city — you want to know what direction we’re headed, what do you want out of this, what kind of team are you trying to put together?” Gasol said. “I want to know what he has to say and how he feels.”
  • While a trade is probably unlikely, Wallace acknowledged that the Grizzlies will keep all their options with their lottery pick, which will be a top-five selection (Twitter link via Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com).