Jama Mahlalela

Warriors Notes: Wiseman, Player Development, Lacob

James Wiseman‘s inability to participate fully in training camp will hurt the Warriors more than any games he might miss at the start of the season, Anthony Slater of The Athletic opines. Wiseman’s development is crucial to making the team relevant again, due to his physical gifts that can add an explosive dimension it currently lacks on the interior. Wiseman is expected to participate in individual shooting and other individual on-court activities during camp. His return to full practices will be determined after October 15, when he’s expected to begin full jumping on the surgically repaired knee.

We have more on the Warriors:

  • The team has invested heavily this offseason in player development, as Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area details. The additions of former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson along with Dejan Milojević and Jama Mahlalela were made due their reputations for developing young talent. All three have been on the job since June, Poole adds.
  • Owner Joe Lacob has been fined $50K for comments regarding Ben Simmons, the NBA announced today (via Twitter). The league deemed the comments as a violation of its anti-tampering rules. Lacob said it’s unlikely the team will trade for disgruntled Sixers star.
  • Lacob believes the franchise is on track for another championship, according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Hopefully, this year, we’ll compete for a championship,” he said. “I think we should. Over the next 4-5 years, I think we should continue that and have a second great decade in a row.”

Warriors Notes: Bjelica, Porter, Poole, Rookies, Iguodala, Kerr

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes that adding veteran forwards Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter in free agency should help make Golden State a better three-point shooting team in 2021/22, as he tells Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.

Kerr called the signing of Bjelica “really exciting,” pointing out that the Warriors haven’t really had a floor-spacing, pick-and-pop big man since Marreese Speights, who generally shot from the mid-range rather than from beyond the arc.

“I look at Bjelica as the three-point-shooting version of Mo, in many ways,” Kerr said. “Because all of a sudden, you’re looking at a spaced floor when you consider Klay (Thompson)‘s return and Steph (Curry)‘s play last year. The ability to play Bjelica with Draymond (Green), which basically turns Draymond into the five and the pick-and-roll guy with Bjelica spaced. Really exciting.”

Kerr also praised Porter, referring to him as a player who can guard multiple positions on defense and who isn’t just “going to stand in the corner” on offense.

“The whole thing with Otto is health now,” Kerr told Kawakami. “He feels like he’s healthy and we’re going to give him every opportunity to get himself in shape and in rhythm. If he can return to form, then he’s a really, really interesting player for us. Somebody who could play an important role.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Asked by Kawakami about lineup and rotation decisions to start the season, Kerr predicted that Jordan Poole will be the Warriors’ starting shooting guard until Thompson is ready to play, and said it’s “impossible to say” yet whether either Jonathan Kuminga or Moses Moody will play regular minutes.
  • Kerr recognizes that trading Andre Iguodala in 2019 was necessary in order to get below the hard cap, but is thrilled to have the veteran forward back in Golden State, as Kawakami relays. “I think when we lost him, we lost a piece of our soul,” Kerr said of Iguodala. “… Andre’s return, I think, is huge in a lot of different ways. First, he’s still got plenty to offer, as he showed in Miami the last two seasons. So his addition on the court will be huge for us. And second, he just embodies everything we’re about — versatility, sacrifice, the clear defining of roles, the mentoring that he brings for the younger guys. You throw all that into the equation and Andre is just an enormous addition for us.”
  • Kerr, who won a gold medal in Tokyo as an assistant coach for Team USA, was asked by Kawakami if he’d be interested in becoming the club’s head coach in 2024, assuming Gregg Popovich doesn’t return. His reply: “Of course I’d be interested. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’ll leave it at that. I have no idea how it will all transpire; there are a lot of great candidates out there. And if I were to be considered, that would be an honor.”
  • The Warriors issued a press release today officially announcing a series of previously-reported additions to Kerr’s coaching staff, including Kenny Atkinson, Dejan Milojevic, and Jama Mahlalela.

Kenny Atkinson To Join Warriors As Assistant Coach

Former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has reached an agreement to become one of Steve Kerr‘s lead assistants with the Warriors, according to Anthony Slater and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Atkinson, who spent this season as a lead assistant with the Clippers, would join Mike Brown in the role, giving Golden State two ex-head coaches as Kerr’s top assistants, sources tell the authors. Atkinson would replace Jarron Collins, who parted ways with the team last month.

The 54-year-old Atkinson was considered as a possible candidate for the head coaching vacancy in Orlando. He served as head coach in Brooklyn from 2016 to 2020 and has previous experience as an assistant with the Knicks and Hawks.

Although he was dismissed after clashing with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Atkinson did an admirable job of making the franchise competitive again and helped develop young players such as Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and D’Angelo Russell.

Along with Atkinson, the Warriors will also add Dejan Milojević and Jama Mahlalela to their coaching staff, according to The Athletic’s sources. Milojević specializes in working with big men, while Mahlalela has been part of the Raptors‘ development staff since 2013.

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Ujiri, Fournier, Powell

The Nets just added former seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge to their gallery of decorated vets, prompting Alex Schiffer of The Athletic to examine how the power forward/center can fit on such a deep roster — especially one with a suddenly-crowded frontcourt. Aldridge figures to serve as a floor-stretching small ball center and a competent defender around the basket.

Meanwhile, Kevin Pelton of ESPN details why Aldridge may not be such a smooth fit on a club that may struggle to parse out minutes effectively among veterans like Aldridge, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, plus ascendant young big man Nicolas Claxton and even switchable forwards Kevin Durant and Joe Harris.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors team president Masai Ujiri has made plenty of incredible moves during his tenure with the club, but his failure to improve the team’s center rotation this season has to be considered one of his biggest oversights, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. After losing big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to star-studded Los Angeles teams in the 2020 offseason, Ujiri signed Aron Baynes and Alex Len as their primary replacements. The Raptors cut Len in January (he has since proved productive in a limited role with the Wizards), and have had trouble scoring with Baynes on the floor.
  • Ahead of his arrival in Boston, new Celtics shooting guard Evan Fournier had a false positive COVID-19 test, according to Tom Westerholm of Boston.com. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Fournier has remained relatively mum when it comes to addressing his future with the Celtics. “My focus right now is just to learn the plays, learn how to play with my teammate[s], and win games,” Fournier said. ” I like to stay in the present, stay in the moment.” Fournier is currently on an expiring $17.5MM contract.
  • Trail Blazers shooting guard Norman Powell, a longtime Raptors fixture, penned an emotional goodbye to Toronto in the Players’ Tribune. “I kept it together for a while,” Powell said of hearing about the deal. “And then I saw Jama Mahlalela. Jama is one of our assistant coaches, and he was also my very first coach when I got to Toronto. He’s known me literally since Summer League, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with him super closely. And he came in to give me a hug, and, man … I just heard it in his voice… and that was it. After that, it was a wrap. It was straight-up waterworks. I started breaking down crying … all the memories that I’d been holding back for those last couple of days, they came rushing back in.”

Raptors Notes: Anunoby, Webster, Ujiri, Lowry

Speaking today to reporters, including Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (Twitter link), Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said that veteran centers Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol were “incredible for us.” However, Toronto’s long-term plans meant that the team was “limited in terms and years” when it came to making Ibaka and Gasol contract offers.

The Raptors’ limitations stem from the club’s desire to maintain as much cap flexibility as possible for the 2021 offseason. As such, it remains to be seen whether or not forward OG Anunoby will receive a contract extension before the December 21 deadline. A new contract for Anunoby, which would begin in 2021/22, would cut into Toronto’s cap room if the starting salary on that new deal exceeds his cap hold as a restricted free agent ($11.6MM).

I think there are talks to be had,” Ujiri said today, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “They know of the abilities that we want, so we’ll keep having those conversations. The most important thing is we’re excited about OG.”

Anunoby, who spoke to reporters on Friday, confirmed that his agent was engaged in discussions with the Raptors about a possible extension, suggesting he’d have a better idea closer to the December 21 deadline whether a new deal is a realistic possibility (Twitter link via Lewenberg).

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Ujiri suggested today that the club has either completed or is close to finalizing extensions for most of his front office staffers, including general manager Bobby Webster (Twitter links via Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun and Blake Murphy of The Athletic). Ujiri said there’s been too much going on to focus on his own extension yet, but that he’ll go into those talks with a “very positive mind and attitude” and hopes to get something done (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • Ujiri isn’t ready to say one way or the other whether the Raptors will be able to host fans at their Tampa arena this season, noting that he has a meeting this afternoon to discuss the possibility (Twitter link via Wolstat).
  • Asked about the possibility of Kyle Lowry retiring as a Raptor, Ujiri referred to the veteran point guard as a future Hall-of-Famer, suggesting the team would be happy to continue its union with Lowry beyond 2021. He’s been incredibly respectful to the organization and we will have that same respect to Kyle anytime, everyday,” Ujiri said (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • The Raptors announced a series of coaching hires and promotions in a Friday press release, including Chris Finch and Jama Mahlalela as assistants on Nick Nurse‘s staff and Patrick Mutombo as the head coach of the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate.