Joe Prunty

Hawks Hiring Mike Longabardi As Assistant Coach

The Hawks are hiring Mike Longabardi as an assistant coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

With former Hawks lead assistant Chris Jent leaving Atlanta to take a job on Darvin Ham‘s Lakers staff, Joe Prunty will be promoted to become Nate McMillan‘s new top lieutenant and Longabardi will essentially fill Prunty’s old role, Wojnarowski explains.

Longabardi is a veteran NBA assistant coach who spent the 2021/22 season with the Kings. He previously served as an assistant on staffs in Houston from 2003-07, Boston from 2007-13, Phoenix from 2013-15, Cleveland from 2016-19, and Washington from 2019-21.

Longabardi, who a reputation as a defensive-minded coach, won titles with the Celtics in 2008 and the Cavaliers in 2016.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

Southeast Notes: Collins, Hawks, Magic, Hornets

After Hawks power forward John Collins opted to not accept Atlanta’s four-year, $90MM contract extension offer during the 2020 offseason, opinions were split on what he could fetch in restricted free agency ahead of the 2020/21 season. As an athletic jump-shooting big man who still appears to have room to grow, Collins now appears set to be one of the top available free agents this summer, opines Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

“The couple of seasons I had before might not have been viewed as winning and empty stats,” Collins told Kirschner. “I don’t know if I wanted to prove to anyone anything other than versatility and playing basketball at a high level. I wanted to show that I could play at a high level and add winning to an organization in more ways than just one. I feel like I’ve proven that. I’m pleased with myself and my ability to help the team win and show my ability to be versatile.”

Kirschner writes that the Hawks should ensure that they re-sign Collins, who proved to be a crucial component of the club that took the eventual-champion Bucks to six games in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. Kirschner projects that a four-year, $110MM deal could satisfy both Collins and Atlanta.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks have announced some finalized coaching staff hires ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to a team press release. Joe Prunty, most recently an assistant with the Suns, and Jamelle McMillan, most recently an assistant with the Pelicans, are the new additions under head coach Nate McMillan. Prunty and Jamelle McMillan were reported to be possibilities for Atlanta earlier this month.
  • Magic president Jeff Weltman indicated that Orlando has had conversations about trading up or down in the upcoming 2021 draft, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). “I think trading up is always difficult, and it’s always difficult the higher you’re talking [about] in the draft,” Weltman said. “I can tell you that we’ve had a lot of discussions both ways, up and down. And it’s not easy to get those deals done.” The Magic currently have the Nos. 5 and 8 selections in the first round of Thursday’s draft.
  • Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has suggested that Charlotte will select the best player available with the No. 11 pick in Thursday’s draft, writes Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer. Though upgrading the center position appears to be the team’s most pressing need, the team is open to all possibilities. “We don’t know what the future holds for [free agent centers Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo],” Kupchak said. “Do they want to come back here? I think they do. And then there is a marketplace that has to be considered.” Kupchak conceded that the team could use help at the five spot. “So if you just look at a depth chart, it’s clear to see … there’s a need there.” He cautioned that the draft may not be the route the Hornets ultimately go when it comes to improving at center. “There aren’t too many centers in the draft. We’re not going to hunt a center.”

Hawks Notes: Prunty, J. McMillan, Workouts, Collins

Joe Prunty and Jamelle McMillan are expected to become part of Nate McMillan‘s revamped coaching staff with the Hawks, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Prunty, who began working as an NBA assistant in 1996, has spent time with a total of seven different teams and briefly served as the interim head coach of the Bucks during the 2017/18 season. Prunty, who last coached in the NBA in 2018/19 as a Suns assistant, was the head coach of the Team USA squad that played in the AmeriCup qualifiers earlier this year. He and Nate McMillan worked together in Portland from 2008-10.

Jamelle McMillan, who is Nate’s son, has spent most of his career with the Pelicans, including several years as an assistant under Alvin Gentry. He joined the Suns for a season in 2018/19 before rejoining the Pelicans, but was let go in 2020 when Stan Van Gundy was hired by New Orleans.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

Isaiah Thomas To Play For Team USA In AmeriCup Qualifiers

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas has committed to playing for Team USA in the upcoming AmeriCup qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Team USA has technically already qualified for the 2022 AmeriCup tournament with a strong showing in previous qualifiers in 2020, but will still take part in next month’s event. The U.S. squad – coached by Joe Prunty, a longtime NBA assistant for the Suns, Bucks, Nets, and others – will face The Bahamas on February 19 and Mexico on 20.

Since undergoing a procedure last year to address a nagging hip issue, Thomas has talked repeatedly about wanting to return to the NBA, and said earlier this month that he has had discussions with multiple teams. He last played for the Wizards to start the 2019/20 season, but was traded to the Clippers at last February’s deadline and was subsequently waived.

Thomas, who will turn 32 in February, was still productive on offense in D.C. last season, averaging 12.2 PPG and 3.7 APG with a .413 3PT% in 40 games (23.1 MPG). However, the Wizards had a 120.2 defensive rating during his minutes, and he ranked 500th out of 503 players in defensive real plus-minus prior to the NBA’s hiatus.

As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), playing in a couple games for Team USA next month should present Thomas with a good opportunity to show that he’s healthy and effective.

Suns Notes: Kokoskov, Ayton, Coaching Search

The Suns‘ decision to dismiss head coach Igor Kokoskov was more about the club’s direction and circumstances rather than its win-loss record, says John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter links). When Kokoskov was hired, there was an expectation that the Suns would look to contend for a playoff spot right away, but after regressing and getting younger in 2018/19, the club wants to start over with someone new.

As Gambadoro explains (via Twitter), the Suns figure to target a coach who is more of a player-development specialist than a tactician. Deandre Ayton‘s development, in particular, will be a primary focus for the club’s next coach, with Gambadoro suggesting (via Twitter) that the young center wasn’t always used in the right way during his rookie season.

While Monty Williams and David Vanterpool have been identified as the first two names on the Suns’ list of potential targets, the team is expected to talk to many candidates, according to Gambadoro, who notes that there’s no set timeline for a new hire.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Touching on another reason that Kokoskov was let go, Gambadoro tweets that Suns players liked the head coach, but felt as though assistant Joe Prunty was more in charge of the bench than Kokoskov was.
  • The Suns are about to employ their seventh head coach since the start of the 2012/13 season, and Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic argues that team owner Robert Sarver is to blame for the seemingly endless coaching turnover in Phoenix. All of the Suns’ dysfunction can be traced back to Sarver, according to Somers, who writes that the owner mistakenly believes he knows how to identify talent on the court and in the front office.
  • The Suns named James Jones as their permanent general manager and hired Jeff Bower as their senior VP of basketball operations the day after the regular season ended. Since then, Jones and Bower have yet to speak publicly. That has to change after the firing of Kokoskov, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News, who contends that the club owes it to its fans to explain the decision and discuss the franchise’s direction.

Central Notes: Budenholzer, Sexton, Sabonis

The Bucks credit new coach Mike Budenholzer for their hot start, as Nick Friedell of ESPN relays. The Bucks’ offense has more structure than it did under former coach Jason Kidd and interim coach Joe Prunty, multiple players told Friedell and other media members. “We have multiple sets we can get into, we have — just more of a foundation to play off of rather than just freestyle,” guard Malcolm Brogdon said. The players are displaying trust in the system, which emphasizes 3-point shots and ball movement, Friedell adds. “I think teams are starting to take notice and realize we’re not the Bucks that we were when I first got here six years ago,” small forward Khris Middleton said. “We’re a totally different team even from last year.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers coach Larry Drew is going to ride the team’s first-round pick and he’s told the rest of the team to buy in. Drew has instructed his veterans that they need to allow rookie point guard Collin Sexton to work through his mistakes, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer“I actually pulled some guys to the side when we were in Orlando (on Monday),” Drew said. “That was my exact point — having to be patient with a 19-year-old kid.”
  • Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis is off to a hot start and that presents a tricky dilemma for the front office, Zach Lowe of ESPN notes. Myles Turner signed a four-year, $72MM extension last month but Sabonis has thus far outplayed him. Statistics bear out that Indiana’s offense suffers when both are on the court, though Turner has a higher ceiling because of his 3-point shooting and rim protection, Lowe continues. Sabonis is eligible for an extension prior to the start of next season but it’s tough to pay big bucks for two players at the same position, Lowe adds.
  • The Pistons rank among the top 10 in the league in open 3-point attempts, yet they’ve done a poor job of making them. Meanwhile, the Bulls have been bit hard by the injury bug. Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders takes a closer look at some of the areas of concern for Central Division clubs.

Suns Rumors: Bridges, Free Agency, Coaches, Williams

The addition of Mikal Bridges gives the Suns a logjam at the forward spots and they still need to address their point guard situation, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes.

After the draft-night trade with the Sixers to acquire Bridges’ rights, the Suns now have five recent first-rounders – Josh JacksonT.J. WarrenDragan Bender and Marquese Chriss being the others – angling for playing time in the frontcourt. GM Ryan McDonough said he might add a stretch four in free agency, Bordow continues, so they could use that depth in a trade, with Chriss and Warren the most likely to be dealt.

Despite selecting Frenchman Elie Okobo with the first pick of the second round, the Suns still need another veteran at that spot, and McDonough confirmed they could pursue a floor leader in free agency, Bordow adds.

We have more on the Suns:

  • The Suns consider Bridges a “special player” and that’s why they were willing to deal the No. 16 pick and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder for him, Bob Baum of the Associated Press reports. ‘‘We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. ”We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about Mikal.”
  • With $15-$20MM available to pursue free agents, the Suns will be proactive in free agency, Baum adds in the same piece. ‘We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency,” McDonough said. “We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”
  • Joe Prunty, Corliss Williamson, Jamelle McMillan, Jason Staudt and Cody Toppert have officially signed up as assistants for new head coach Igor Kokoskov, Bordow tweets.
  • It’s hard to imagine the Suns will retain center Alan Williams on his current deal, Bordow adds in another tweet. Williams, whose $5.52MM salary is not guaranteed, would get a full guarantee if he’s still on the roster through July 6. He’d be a third-string center behind Deandre Ayton and Tyson Chandler if he sticks.

Suns Hiring Joe Prunty As Lead Assistant

A former NBA head coach will become the new lead assistant on Igor Kokoskov‘s staff in Phoenix, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the Suns have agreed to a deal with Joe Prunty to fill that role.

A veteran NBA assistant who has worked for the Spurs, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, and Nets, Prunty was the lead assistant on Jason Kidd‘s staff in Milwaukee. When the Bucks fired Kidd halfway through the 2017/18 season, Prunty took over as the club’s interim head coach.

After leading the Bucks to a playoff berth and a first-round exit, Prunty received consideration for the permanent head coaching job in Milwaukee, and was one of the many candidates interviewed by the franchise. However, the team ultimately decided on Mike Budenholzer, leaving Prunty looking for work elsewhere.

A report in May indicated that the Suns were expected to hire Mike Woodson as the new lead assistant on Kokoskov’s staff, but no deal had been formally reached at that time. It’s unclear whether Woodson, a former Knicks head coach and Clippers assistant, still fits into Phoenix’s plans, or whether he’ll land with another team now that Prunty is poised to become Kokoskov’s right-hand man.

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Casey, Bucks, Knicks

As we relayed in our story on Dwane Casey‘s firing earlier today, it didn’t take long for one outside candidate to be linked to the Raptors‘ head coaching job, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reporting that Mike Budenholzer is a name to watch.

Budenholzer’s name continues to surface in relation to the Raptors’ newly-opened coaching position. Sources confirmed to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) that Toronto is expected to pursue Budenholzer, while Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) hears from coaching sources that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has “strong interest” in the former Hawks head coach.

As we wait to see if Budenholzer emerges as the favorite for the Raptors’ job, let’s round up more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA…

  • According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), Casey – who had one year left on his contract – sought an extension from the Raptors before he was let go. Zillgitt speculates that stance may have forced Ujiri’s hand.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide updates on the Bucks‘ coaching search, writing that the first round of interviews should wrap up this week. Milwaukee has interviewed Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Joe Prunty so far, and still has meetings lined up with David Blatt and Becky Hammon. GM Jon Horst figures to narrow the team’s list to three or four finalists, at which point team ownership will get involved in the process.
  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Jerry Stackhouse “interviews well” for coaching jobs, but “does rub some people the wrong way.” Stackhouse entered the offseason as a popular rising head coaching candidate, but has yet to gain traction for any open jobs. In fact, despite a mid-April report indicating Stackhouse would meet with the Magic, that interview has yet to happen, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • New Knicks head coach David Fizdale is expected to hire Nick Van Exel to join his staff in New York, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Like Keith Smart, who is also reportedly set to join the Knicks, Van Exel was on Fizdale’s staff in Memphis.