Justin Zanik

Northwest Notes: Melo, Jazz, Booth, Thunder

Trail Blazers small forward Carmelo Anthony is looking forward to a return to his original small forward position now that the team’s starting power forward Zach Collins has returned to health, per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com.

“I’m actually very comfortable at that, I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Anthony said during a Zoom conversation yesterday. “Over the last couple years is where I started moving, transitioning toward playing the four more. You’ve got teams going small, so that was to my advantage as well.”

Anthony, a 10-time All-Star with the Nuggets and Knicks, has averaged 15.3 PPG (while shooting 37.1% from long range and 84.3% from the charity stripe), 6.3 RPG and 1.6 APG for the Blazers. The 36-year-old was inked to the club as an injury replacement for Collins in November. Portland’s 29-37 record slots the team in as the No. 9 seed in the West.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz touched down in the NBA’s Orlando restart campus last night. Team general manager Justin Zanik indicated in a Zoom conversation today between himself, executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey and reporters that the club has not experienced any positive coronavirus tests since mandatory team testing began last month,  according to Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News. Zanik traveled with the team to Orlando, while Lindsey stayed in Utah.
  • New Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth is contemplating innovative approaches to remote scouting during the current pandemic, according to Alex Labidou of Nuggets.com“All we’re trying to do is look for where inefficiencies are, where you can get value,” Booth said. “Even though as the years go on and as people get more and more interested in [scouting in] Europe and they are putting more resources into it, it’s still a landscape where you can find a gem.”
  • Sixteen of 17 Thunder players are traveling to Orlando for the NBA’s Orlando season restart, as Brandon Rahbar of Daily Thunder details. In case you missed it, forward Isaiah Roby had surgery on his right plantar fascia and will miss the rest of the 2019/20 season.

Pistons Notes: GM Search, Kennard, Bone

The Pistons will focus on external candidates in their search for a new general manager, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The new GM will work alongside senior advisor Ed Stefanski to chart a course for the future of the franchise, while Malik Rose and Pat Garrity will be retained as assistant GMs.

Edwards identifies several potential candidates for the position: Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham, former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes, who was considered for the GM job in Chicago, and Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver. Edwards also suggests that University of Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller, who had Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem as an agent during his playing career, could be brought in as another assistant GM.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News agrees on Hughes and Weaver and offers a few other candidates who might be in play. Shane Battier grew up in the Detroit area and serves as VP of basketball development and analytics with the Heat, but Beard believes it would be difficult to talk him into leaving Miami. Chauncey Billups is a Pistons hero from his playing days and has been considered for other front office openings. Tayshaun Prince, who teamed with Billups on the 2004 championship team, became VP of basketball operations for the Grizzlies last year. Celtics assistant GM Michael Zarren has spent 14 years with the organization and has turned down other opportunities, but Beard believes the Pistons should contact him.
  • Working Luke Kennard back into the rotation would have been a priority if the season had continued, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Kennard, who had been battling tendinitis in both knees since December, was set to return in the Pistons’ next game when the hiatus was imposed. With Kennard about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, Detroit will have to decide soon whether to make a long-term commitment or try to trade him, and Langlois sees his shooting skills as an important element for a rebuilding team.
  • The Pistons may have other priorities at point guard that will prevent Jordan Bone from earning a roster spot next season, Langlois adds in the same piece. Derrick Rose has another year on his contract, and Langlois expects the team to find a veteran to complement him. Also, there will also be plenty of opportunity to fill the position in a draft that’s heavy on point guards. Bone saw limited time in 10 NBA games as a two-way player this season, but averaged 19.9 points per 36 minutes and shot 38% from 3-point range in the G League.

Bulls Notes: Karnisovas, Zanik, Reinsdorf, Boylen

Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas made a strong impression on the Bulls‘ front office during his interview today, a source tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Management plans to meet with Karnisovas again electronically in a few days, and he could be hired as soon as next week.

A few other prominent names emerged today from the team’s interview process and some of them may be added to the organization as well, Cowley adds, as chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf is using the makeover to create depth in the front office. Cowley states that not all the interviews have been for the executive VP of basketball operations position, and some of them were just former executives that Reinsdorf wanted to gather information from.

The source says Jazz executive Justin Zanik also impressed Reinsdorf with his background in player relationships and salary cap knowledge. The Bulls may decide to hire several executives and have them manage separate departments.

There’s more tonight from Chicago:

  • NBA writer Stephen Noh examines Karnisovas’ background in a story on The Patreon. His aggressive philosophy toward trades was shaped by his first NBA job with the Rockets more than a decade ago, where he worked with general manager Daryl Morey, former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie and current Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. “They would call every team constantly and look for ideas of how they can make their team better.” Karnisovas said. “That’s what I took and still to this day, I believe in coming up with 100 ideas. Maybe one will stick.” 
  • Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated examines some of the challenges awaiting whoever gets hired to run the team. He believes there’s too much young talent in place for a complete overhaul, but veterans such as Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky may be moved. A decision also has to be made on the fate of head coach Jim Boylen.
  • Black executives around the league are upset that no African American candidates have been interviewed in the Bulls’ front office search, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated“It’s clear there is an underlying hypocrisy telling us the NBA is diverse, but when an opportunity comes, the process isn’t,” a black assistant GM said. “All we want is a chance. As a black man, all we want is a fair opportunity to show we are just as qualified.”

Nuggets’ Karnisovas Leading Candidate For Bulls’ Job?

11:32am: The Bulls have completed their interview with Karnisovas, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who notes (via Twitter) that the team wants to make a hire sooner rather than later.

9:27am: Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is “the leader in the clubhouse” for the Bulls‘ open front office position, multiple sources tell Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Chicago is said to be seeking an executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, and Karnisovas was named early in the search process as one of the club’s top candidates.

Other executives identified among the first wave of targets for the Bulls, including Pacers GM Chad Buchanan and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, will remain with their current teams. That may be the case for Raptors GM Bobby Webster too. And while Chicago did conduct a video interview on Monday with Utah’s Justin Zanik, Goodwill suggests the Jazz seem “intent” on hanging onto their GM.

However, the Bulls received permission to speak to Karnisovas about their open position and reportedly have a video interview lined up with him for the middle of this week. As Goodwill explains, Denver’s GM has a strong draft record and has a good reputation for player development, which are two characteristics the Bulls are prioritizing in their search for a new basketball operations exec.

“(Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf) wants someone who’ll surround himself with smart people, a great talent evaluator,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “There’s a need to get better in the player development department, too.”

Sources tell Goodwill that Reinsdorf wants someone who “has a presence publicly,” which would stand in contrast to the reticence of John Paxson and Gar Forman over the years. According to Goodwill, the Bulls are also looking to beef up their scouting staff, with Forman potentially moving from his general manager position to a scouting role.

Finally, sources confirm to Goodwill that Paxson – the team’s longtime head of basketball operations – will be “as involved or uninvolved” as the incoming hire wants him to be, as reports on Tuesday indicated. There’s an expectation that Paxson will move behind the scenes to an advisory role, but that’s still to be determined.

Jazz GM Interviews For Top Spot In Bulls’ Front Office

Jazz GM Justin Zanik had a video interview with the Bulls on Monday for the franchise’s executive VP of basketball operations opening, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Zanik has held the GM job with the Utah franchise since May 2019 after being promoted from assistant GM. That occurred at the same time longtime GM Dennis Lindsey was promoted to executive VP of basketball operations.

Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas will get an interview in the middle of this week, Wojnarowski adds. Utah just received permission to interview Karnisovas, who is one of four executives reportedly on Chicago’s initial wish list for the job. The person the Bulls hire will have full authority on basketball decisions.

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan  and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon were two of the candidates on that wish list, but both decided to stay put prior to the interview process.

It’s also uncertain that Raptors GM Bobby Webster, the other candidate on the list, will be interviewed. Toronto may not grant the Bulls permission to talk to Webster, who is under contract through 2021.

Clippers GM Michael Winger, Clippers assistant GM Trent ReddenMagic assistant GM Matt Lloyd are some other names that have surfaced as potential candidates.

Latest On Bulls’ Front Office Search

The Bulls have received permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Karnisovas was one of four men said to be on Chicago’s initial wish list for a top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions. It’s not clear if the Bulls will get a chance to talk to any of those four potential candidates besides Karnisovas.

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan reportedly rebuffed the Bulls’ interest, opting to remain in Indiana. And there’s plenty of speculation around the NBA that the Heat will make an effort to retain assistant GM Adam Simon, according to Johnson (Twitter link).

As for the fourth candidate, Toronto’s Bobby Webster, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes that the Raptors may not grant the Bulls permission to speak to their general manager, who is under contract through 2021. With president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and head coach Nick Nurse also set to have their contracts expire after next season, and many of their players coming off the books in the coming months, the Raptors face some long-term uncertainty and might not want to risk losing a rising young executive. There’s a sense they’ll tell Chicago that “this is not a good time,” according to Grange.

Even if they’re only able to speak to one of their initial four targets, the Bulls have a longer list of candidates, per Johnson (Twitter link), who names Clippers GM Michael Winger, Clippers assistant GM Trent Redden, Magic assistant GM Matt Lloyd, and Jazz GM Justin Zanik as possibilities.

Chicago has received permission to talk to Zanik, Johnson reports, so the Utah GM will join Karnisovas in taking part in the first round of Bulls interviews.

The Bulls will conduct those meetings electronically due to the coronavirus pandemic and reportedly want to make a hire prior to the draft and free agency.

Bulls To Seek Interviews With Karnisovas, Webster, Others

1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will  join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.

According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.

12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.

Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.

Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.

According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.

Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).

Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.

The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.

However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.

Northwest Notes: Hood, Millsap, Zanik, Jazz

An MRI on Trail Blazers guard Rodney Hood‘s left knee showed no structural damage and he’ll be listed as day-to-day for the Western Conference Finals, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Hood suffered a bone bruise when he ran into a pick set by the Nuggets’ Torrey Craig during Portland’s Game 7 victory on Sunday. Hood, who enters unrestricted free agency this summer, was a major factor off the bench in the series against the Nuggets. He averaged 14.7 PPG in the conference semifinals.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran forward Paul Millsap is intent on helping a team win a championship, whether it’s the Nuggets or another contending franchise, as he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. The team holds a $30MM option on Millsap’s contract for next season. “We’ve proved everybody wrong,” the 34-year-old Millsap said. “For me, not really trying to prove everybody wrong, but prove to myself that I can do it my way and still win. I can do it with whoever I want to do it with. It ain’t got to be the Golden State Warriors of the Lakers or whatever. I can help a young, talented team reach that goal.”
  • New Jazz GM Justin Zanik believes that continuity within the organization will get it to the next level, as he told Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News. Zanik was promoted from assistant GM last week. “We have a very experienced front office and we know what we need to do,” he said, “so however we get that done, we’re going to do it together and continue to just keep pushing forward with the Jazz to keep us on this championship-competitive path.”
  • Zanik’s promotion, as well as the elevation of Dennis Lindsey to executive VP of basketball operations, doesn’t mean big changes are on the way, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes.

Jazz Rework Front Office, Promote Lindsey, Zanik

1:50pm: The Jazz have officially confirmed Lindsey’s and Zanik’s promotions.

1:36pm: The Jazz are making some changes to their front office structure, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that longtime general manager Dennis Lindsey will be promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations. An official announcement is expected from the team as soon as Friday.

With Lindsey vacating the general manager job, assistant GM Justin Zanik will be elevated to that position, per Wojnarowski.

While Lindsey had already been the team’s de facto head of basketball operations, it’s becoming increasingly common for NBA teams to assign a title besides general manager to that top executive. Zanik, Utah’s new GM, will now be responsible for day-to-day duties and running basketball operations, while Lindsey will assume a “broader, strategic and leadership role,” sources tell Woj.

Based on Wojnarowski’s report, it’s not clear if the Jazz will add any new executives to the front office or promote anyone to fill Zanik’s assistant GM role. However, the promotions may help Utah keep its management group in place going forward — Zanik has been considered for other top front office jobs around the NBA before, but might be less inclined to leave the Jazz after being promoted to GM.

Wizards Notes: GM Search, Wall, Ariza

The Wizards will be vying this spring with the Suns, Pelicans, and possibly the Timberwolves for general manager candidates. And while Washington may not have the promising cap outlook or collection of young players out of those teams, it still may be considered the best opportunity for GM hopefuls, writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.

“We really care about two things: Is the boss invested in his team, and will he prove it by spending the money we ask him to spend?” one longtime executive said to Golliver. “(Wizards owner) Ted (Leonsis) is two-for-two. He won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals. He paid John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Ian Mahinmi. He paid Andray Blatche and then paid him to go away. What more could you want?”

Leonsis says there’s no list of candidates yet to replace former president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, but league executives tell Golliver that the search figures to include “past and present top decision-makers, as well as up-and-coming executives.” Besides some of the names already mentioned as candidates, Golliver identifies Thunder vice president Troy Weaver and Jazz assistant GM Justin Zanik as a couple more options for the Wizards.

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Firing Grunfeld was the right move, but the Wizards did it for the wrong reasons, contends Tom Ziller of SBNation.com. In a separate article for The Washington Post, Golliver writes that a number of Grunfeld’s personnel missteps continue to loom large over the franchise.
  • While head coach Scott Brooks is expected to return for the 2019/20 season, he acknowledges that it could be a difficult year of transition for the Wizards. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for the next general manger to come in and shape the team,” Brooks said, per Lisa Redmond of NBC Sports Washington. “… We have five players and plus a first-round pick coming up and so it’s going to be a very important summer with John (Wall) being out. You know, we have to be very creative. Not going to make an excuse that it’s going to be a tough year, but it’s going to be a challenging year.”
  • Speaking of Wall, even though his Achilles injury is bad news for the Wizards, there’s a possible silver lining, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. As Buckner outlines, the franchise will only be on the hook for 20% of Wall’s 2019/20 salary until he returns to the court, with insurance picking up the other 80%. Of course, Wall’s full super-max salary (projected to be worth $37.8MM) will still count against the cap.
  • Wizards forward Trevor Ariza is likely done for the season due to his groin injury, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The team has previously expressed interest in retaining Ariza – an unrestricted free agent this summer – beyond this season, but it’s not clear how the front office shakeup will affect the veteran.