Juwan Howard

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Westbrook, M. Jackson, Coaching Candidates

LeBron James may be leaning toward playing out his current contract and making a decision on his future next summer, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic. In August, James will become eligible for a two-year extension that would pay him $97.1MM and tie him to the Lakers through the end of the 2024/25 season.

Although that’s more than he could get from any other team, the organization’s turmoil and lack of success on the court could make him think twice about extending him commitment to the Lakers. James, who said in February that he would like to someday be on the same team with his son, Bronny, could return to playing on one-year contracts the way he did during his second stint in Cleveland, Amick adds, citing sources close to the situation.

James is intrigued by by the idea of setting the all-time scoring record in a Lakers’ uniform, but he also wants to contend for championships, which may be out of reach in L.A. When asked about the extension on Monday, he didn’t offer a direct answer.

“The conversation hasn’t been talked about,” James responded. “Technically it’s because (with) the collective bargaining agreement (it) cannot even be discussed until later on in the year. So, you know, I know what’s out there. But we can’t even — myself and (agent) Rich (Paul) — can’t even begin to talk with (GM) Rob (Pelinka), or the front office at all, because of the collective bargaining agreement. So (when) we get to that point, we’ll see.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • If Russell Westbrook remains with the team next season, there will be “significant pressure” for him to become a sixth man, according to Amick, who states that “some key Lakers figures” thought that should have been his role this year. Westbrook clashed repeatedly with just-fired head coach Frank Vogel, so it’s possible that he would be more accommodating to a new coach.
  • James would be “very enthused” to see Mark Jackson become the team’s next head coach, Amick adds. Jackson, a broadcaster for ABC and ESPN, has been out of coaching since the Warriors fired him after the 2013/14 season. Amick notes that the Lakers haven’t always taken coaching advice from James, who preferred Tyronn Lue and Jason Kidd before Vogel was hired in 2019.
  • Many of the prominent names mentioned in the Lakers’ coaching search are already under contract and may be out of reach, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Quin Snyder‘s deal with the Jazz runs for at least another year, and sources tell Turner that Snyder has less interest in the L.A. job after seeing how the organization mishandled Vogel’s firing. Nick Nurse has two years left on his contract in Toronto and it’s assumed around the league that the Raptors won’t let him leave, Turner adds, while Juwan Howard reportedly wants to stay at Michigan and coach his sons. However, even though he has three years left on his contract with the Sixers, Doc Rivers “should not be discounted as a candidate,” a source familiar with the situation tells Turner.

L.A. Notes: Lakers’ Roster, Howard, Rondo, George, Powell

The Lakers‘ hopes of reaching the play-in tournament were extinguished this week, but these final games are still important for a few players, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The team’s roster figures to look much different next season, and young players such as Mason Jones, who finished third in the G League MVP race, see the late-season contests as a chance to shape their future.

“At the end of the day, I want to be a good player in the league,” he said. “From this day forward, you’ve got to continue to take steps. I was with South Bay earlier and I took that as the right mindset. And I’ll continue to take steps. From here, I want to continue to take the steps and learn from them because possibly, they could be my teammates next year.”

Beyond LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers have only a few players under contract for next season, Goon notes. Talen Horton-Tucker is signed for two more years and Kendrick Nunn for one more, and the team has 2022/23 options on Austin Reaves and Stanley Johnson. That may create an opportunity for Wenyen Gabriel, whose two-way contract was converted to a standard deal on Friday.

“Obviously we didn’t get a lot of wins this month and we obviously wish we could have won more,” Gabriel said. “But I played with a lot of energy, and I feel I showed some things – some tools that the front office thinks can help the next following season. So it’s just them believing in my potential.”

There’s more NBA news from Los Angeles:

  • Michigan coach Juwan Howard has been mentioned as a possibility to replace Frank Vogel as head coach of the Lakers, tweets Steve Bulpett of Heavy, who adds that if that happens Rajon Rondo could join him as an assistant. Rondo, 36, is currently playing for the Cavaliers.
  • There appears to be no concern about Paul George‘s elbow as the Clippers head toward the play-in tournament, according to Joe Reedy of The Associated Press. George, who missed three months with a torn ligament, has been excellent since returning last week and the team has gone 5-1 in the games he has played. “The elbow’s fine. It feels pretty good,” George said. “Overall, I’m trying to take each possession for what it is and trying to make the best play possible.”
  • Norman Powell is happy to back in time for the postseason after fracturing a bone in his left foot shortly after being traded to the Clippers, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I’m excited for what we’re building here,” Powell said after returning Wednesday. “Playing along PG, it still doesn’t seem real to me. He was a guy that I looked up to growing up, a guy, we had some battles in Toronto in the playoffs, and early on in my career he gave me some words of encouragement – my rookie year, that stuck with me. So being able to play alongside with him, and Kawhi (Leonard) when he gets back healthy, it’s going to be fun.”

And-Ones: Howard, Banchero, UAE, Underperforming Teams

The University of Michigan has agreed to a long-term contract extension with men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard, the program announced on Tuesday in a press release. Howard’s new deal will run through the 2025/26 season, locking him up for the next five years.

Howard has been identified as a potential NBA head coaching candidate in recent years, but the former Heat assistant has repeatedly shot down rumors that he’d be interested in returning to the league. If he changes his mind during the next five years, Howard could probably negotiate an exit from his deal with the Wolverines. But the fact that he agreed to that extension in the first place suggests he doesn’t plan on going anywhere.

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

  • Duke’s Paolo Banchero, a projected top-two pick in the 2022 NBA draft, was arrested on Sunday for aiding and abetting DWI, according to Steve Wiseman of The Raleigh News & Observer. Blue Devils guard Michael Savarino, who was driving a vehicle registered to Banchero, was charged with DWI. Both players have December court dates.
  • NBA games will be played in the United Arab Emirates for the first time next fall, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, who reports that the league will schedule two exhibition games in Abu Dhabi in October 2022. The NBA has previously played exhibitions in the Middle East in Israel, but this will be the league’s first trip to the UAE.
  • A handful of ESPN writers took a closer look at some underperforming teams to assess how concerned those clubs should be about their slow starts. The Hawks, Bucks, and Celtics are among the teams that shouldn’t be too worried quite yet, but the panic meter is already high for the Pelicans.

Penny Hardaway Drawing Interest As NBA Coaching Candidate

NBA teams are making calls to gather intel on University of Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Hardaway is expected to get offers to interview for NBA jobs this offseason.

A four-time All-Star as an NBA player, Hardaway has slowly been climbing the coaching ladder over the last decade. After several years in the high school ranks, he was hired by Memphis in 2018 and has landed top recruits like James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa in recent years. The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA tournament since Hardaway joined the program, but had a 20-8 record and were NIT champions in 2020/21.

It’s not clear which teams might offer Hardaway an interview – or if he’d be open to leaving Memphis – but the Celtics, Pacers, Magic, and Trail Blazers currently have head coaching openings.

Another noteworthy college coach, Juwan Howard of Michigan, continues to draw NBA interest as well, but he has been telling teams that he has no interest in leaving the Wolverines, according to Wojnarowski. Howard, who was specifically identified as a potential Blazers candidate, also rebuffed NBA interest in 2020.

Jason Kidd Won’t Seek Trail Blazers’ Coaching Job

Jason Kidd has decided not to be a candidate for the Trail Blazers’ vacant head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“Portland’s a first-class organization and will have great candidates for its head coaching job, but I’ve decided not to be one of them,” Kidd said. “Whoever they choose will have big shoes to fill from Terry (Stotts).”

According to Wojnarowski, Kidd became uncomfortable with seeking the Trail Blazers’ job after star guard Damian Lillard said Friday that Kidd was his top choice. Kidd was concerned that Lillard’s public comment would put the team in an awkward position if he interviewed for the post.

“Jason Kidd is the guy I want,” Lillard said after news broke that Stotts won’t be returning next season.

Kidd, a former head coach with the Nets and Bucks, has been the top assistant to Frank Vogel with the Lakers for the past two seasons.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the Blazers haven’t talked to any potential candidates yet or reached out for permission to interview anybody, but that process should begin once the last first-round series wraps up today.

Portland is expected to consider Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, former Knicks and Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and Michigan coach Juwan Howard, sources tell ESPN.

Terry Stotts Won’t Return As Trail Blazers Coach

10:01pm: The team has confirmed in a press release that Stotts will not return.

“I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons,” president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction. Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best.”


9:40pm: The Trail Blazers and longtime head coach Terry Stotts have mutually agreed to part ways, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Stotts, 63, has been the team’s head coach since the 2012/13 season. Portland has qualified for the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons but only made the conference finals in 2018/19, when they were swept by the Warriors. The Blazers have been eliminated in the first round in two consecutive years, and four of the last five.

Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ABC broadcaster and former Rockets/Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, former head coach and current Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, and University of Michigan head coach and former Heat assistant Juwan Howard are expected to receive consideration for the job, Wojnarowski reports in a separate tweet.

The Blazers’ quick exit in this year’s playoffs was unexpected. They were facing a depleted Nuggets team, missing starting guards Jamal Murray and Will Barton, while all of their own starters were healthy. Despite some stellar performances from Damian Lillard, Portland was eliminated in six games.

Lillard has played under Stotts throughout his career. The All-Star point guard will have a major say on Stotts’ replacement, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

In his nine seasons with Portland, Stotts accumulated a regular-season record of 402-318 (.558). However, the Blazers went 22-40 (.355) in those postseason appearances. Stotts had one more guaranteed year on his contract, with a team option for 2022/23.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics Will Start Coaching Search With Internal Interviews

The first step in the Celtics‘ search for a new head coach to replace Brad Stevens will begin with several internal candidates, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Chris Mannix of SI.com suggested as much earlier today.

Boston’s head coaching position opened up this morning when Danny Ainge resigned as president of basketball operations and Stevens was chosen to replace him.

Weiss notes that Stevens’ staff has several strong candidates. Jay Larranaga interviewed for the Hornets’ head coaching spot before James Borrego was hired, and Scott Morrison and Brandon Bailey both coached at the team’s G League affiliate in Maine. Jerome Allen is a former NBA player with college head coaching experience at the University of Pennsylvania, while Jamie Young has been with the team since 2008.

Among external candidates, the most interesting name is Kara Lawson, who would become the first female NBA head coach if she gets the job. Lawson spent a year as an assistant in Boston before leaving in 2020 to become head coach of the women’s team at Duke. Others to watch, sources tell Weiss, include former Celtics players Sam Cassell, currently an assistant with the Sixers, and Chauncey Billups, who is on the Clippers‘ staff.

Weiss also expects interest in former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Nets assistant Ime Udoka, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee. According to Weiss, another potential outsider is Juwan Howard if he’s willing to leave Michigan.

And-Ones: Lin, Draft Pick Trades, March Madness, J. Howard

Following a productive stint in the G League bubble, where he averaged 19.8 PPG on 50.5% shooting in nine games, veteran guard Jeremy Lin explained to Marc Stein of The New York Times why he opted to play for the Santa Cruz Warriors instead of accepting a far more lucrative offer in China.

“The more that we talked to teams, they were telling my agent, ‘Hey, we want to see if Jeremy’s healthy, and we want to see if Jeremy can still go. No offense to some of the leagues overseas, but we would love to see him here in front of us, in an NBA system, playing under NBA rules,'” Lin said. “I know I’m an NBA player. I know I’m a better shooter. I know I’m a better defender. I know I’m more well rounded as a basketball player. I know these things, but I just needed a chance to show it.”

Within his wide-ranging Q&A with Stein, Lin also revealed that he was affected by a small bone spur in his shooting elbow during his most recent NBA stint in Toronto in 2019, and had to undergo surgery to address the issue after the season. The 32-year-old added that he remains confident he’ll get another chance to play in the NBA, suggesting that he believes it’s “just a matter of time.”

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

  • In an interesting piece for The Ringer, Danny Chau dives into the evolution of draft pick trading, examining when and why certain restrictions were put in place, and how teams have continued to get creative with the protections and conditions on traded picks.
  • Potential top picks Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, and Evan Mobley are among the many prospects that Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) will be keeping an eye on during the upcoming NCAA tournament. Givony also notes that many NBA executives believe Michigan coach Juwan Howard will be in “high demand” this offseason, though it remains to be seen whether Howard will consider leaving the Wolverines.
  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press explores how the lure of making the play-in tournament has changed the feel of the trade deadline by creating fewer potential sellers.

Juwan Howard Intends To Rebuff NBA Head Coaching Interest

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported this morning (via Twitter) that Michigan coach Juwan Howard is viewed as a possible NBA head coaching candidate who is “gaining traction” within front offices. However, less than two hours later, Howard put out a statement indicating that he doesn’t plan on exploring NBA opportunities at this time.

“There was a report of my name as a potential candidate for NBA coaching opportunities,” Howard tweeted. “While I am flattered, and know it will more than likely happen again, I am NOT exploring, seeking, or listening.”

Howard, who previously served as an assistant coach on Erik Spoelstra‘s staff in Miami, generated plenty of interest on the head coaching market during the spring of 2019. He reportedly interviewed with the Lakers and Cavaliers, and received an offer from the Timberwolves to become the associate head coach on Ryan Saunders‘ staff.

However, he opted instead to return to his alma mater, reaching an agreement on a five-year deal to coach the Wolverines. Since he’s only one season into that five-year commitment, it makes sense that he’d be disinclined to begin pursuing NBA opportunities again. Michigan also did well on the recruiting trail this year, with Juwan’s son Jace Howard among the players joining the Wolverines for the 2020/21 season.

Knicks Reportedly “Obsessed” With Masai Ujiri

The Knicks are “obsessed” and “enamored” with Raptors executive Masai Ujiri as the next man to run the franchise, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. A front office shakeup is expected in the wake of yesterday’s firing of head coach David Fizdale, especially considering the poor track record of team president Steve Mills.

Begley speculates it would take “significant money and full autonomy” to land Ujiri, who is already in a comfortable spot after building a championship team. Even if the Knicks are willing to grant that, Ujiri may not want to work for a controversial figure like James Dolan, and he is signed with Toronto until 2021, a contract he said in October that he plans to honor.

Echoing a report we shared last week, Begley states that the Knicks believe Ujiri could be drawn to New York City to provide a larger platform for his charitable work with the Giants of Africa Foundation. However, there was similar speculation about Washington, D.C., a few months ago when the Wizards were restructuring their front office, and Ujiri opted to stay in Toronto.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Despite a 4-18 start and six straight losing seasons, the Knicks’ front office job is still viewed as appealing around the league, Begley adds in the same story. The team has drafted well under general manager Scott Perry and has held on to its first-round picks. The Knicks also retained cap flexibility by signing seven players to short-term contracts this summer after failing to land their top targets in free agency.
  • A few players got to say goodbye to Fizdale before he left the team, Taj Gibson tells Begley (Twitter link). Gibson said Fizdale was emotional during the departure, adding, “Guys loved him.”
  • Mark Jackson, a former Knicks guard and ex-head coach of the Warriors, is a 5-1 favorite to be the next head coach, relays Adam Zagoria for Forbes. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag have Kenny Smith second at 6-1 and Italian coach Ettore Messina at 7-1. Next in line are three college coaches, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
  • Interim coach Mike Miller thanked Fizdale and the Knicks organization during today’s pre-game press conference (video link from Vorkunov). Neither Mills nor Perry has addressed the media since the firing became official, and nobody from management has commented apart from an unattributed statement that was released Friday.
  • Former NBA player Keith Bogans has been named to Miller’s staff, the Knicks announced on Twitter.