Kevin McHale

Atlantic Notes: Smart, McHale, Nets, Knicks

Marcus Smart is expected to join his Celtics teammates for practice tomorrow, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. It will be Smart’s first on-court action since suffering an oblique tear last month.

Although Smart will be a full participant, the session won’t include contact as coach Brad Stevens plans to give the team a break ahead of Monday’s Game 4 against the Bucks.

“I’m going to talk to our training staff [on Saturday], and then, [Sunday], all indication is he will go through our practice,” Stevens said. “I’m writing up our practice plan now, and I don’t have any live drills on it, so if he does [contact work], it’ll probably be before or after practice, if that’s his next step.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former teammate Kevin McHale reached out to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge after he suffered a mild heart attack this week, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. McHale, who has previous front office experience with the Timberwolves, can relate to the pressure of running a team. “It’s a stressful job, but I would say Danny has probably got the best perspective of anyone in the league on that job and what’s going on,” McHale said. “… I think having Austin [his son is the Celtics’ director of player personnel] working there with him, I can just tell how much he enjoys it and how well they work together.”
  • Gianluca Pascucci, who serves as director of global scouting for the Nets, is being considered for an executive position with AC Milano in Italy, but the organization may try to hold on to him, tweets NetsDaily. Pascucci could be a candidate for assistant GM in Brooklyn if Trajan Langdon leaves. Langdon was considered for front office positions with the Timberwolves and Pelicans and is rumored to be a candidate with the Wizards.
  • Las Vegas oddsmakers are expecting a huge summer for the Knicks, writes David Purdum of ESPN. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas has given New York 16-1 odds to win next season’s title, trailing just the Bucks, Celtics and Sixers in the East. Jeff Sherman, who oversees the Superbook’s NBA odds, told Purdum they are based on the Knicks being the favorites to land Kevin Durant in free agency. He adds that New York would be about a 300-1 shot without Durant.

Kevin McHale, Jim Paxson Among Suns’ GM Candidates?

The Suns are still in the early stages of their search for a permanent general manager, but a couple names have emerged as potential options, per Marc Stein of The New York Times. According to Stein (via Twitter), Phoenix has spoken to Kevin McHale and also has interest in Jim Paxson.

McHale, who currently works as an analyst for TNT, was the head of basketball operations for more than a decade in Minnesota before he stepped down from that role to become the club’s head coach. He went on to coach the Rockets as well, holding that position until 2015.

The Wolves had a run of eight consecutive playoff appearances during McHale’s time in the front office, though the team advanced beyond the first round just once in that stretch. The club was also stripped of multiple first-round picks for agreeing to a cap-circumventing deal with Joe Smith during McHale’s stint in Minnesota.

As for Paxson, he currently serves as a Bulls consultant after previously working in management roles in Portland and Cleveland. He was the Cavaliers’ general manager from 1999 to 2005. During his time as GM, the Cavs didn’t earn a playoff spot, though adding LeBron James in 2003’s draft helped buoy the club to five consecutive postseason runs from 2006-10 after Paxson left the organization.

It’s now clear how serious Phoenix’s interest in McHale or Paxson is, or if that interest is reciprocated. While McHale and Paxson are the first names to emerge in the Suns’ search, the franchise will likely consider a number of other options.

James Jones and Trevor Bukstein have been Phoenix’s interim co-GMs since former GM Ryan McDonough was fired in October, a week before the season began. They’re expected to receive consideration in the team’s search for a permanent GM and could remain with the organization even if neither gets the full-time job.

Suns Fire GM Ryan McDonough

With the 2018/19 NBA regular season just eight days away, the Suns are shaking up their front office. Phoenix has fired general manager Ryan McDonough, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Vice president of basketball operations James Jones and assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein will take over GM duties on an interim basis, Charania adds (via Twitter).

“After much thought and a long evaluation of basketball operations, I have decided to relieve Ryan McDonough of his duties as general manager of the Phoenix Suns,” team owner Robert Sarver said today in a press release confirming the move. “Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster. Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership.”

The timing of the move is unusual, as teams generally make major front office changes in the spring, giving the new management group the opportunity to tackle the draft and free agency. McDonough also signed an extension last summer and had two years left on his contract, as John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 observes (via Twitter). The fact that the Suns are moving on from McDonough now suggests that ownership hasn’t necessarily been thrilled with the club’s offseason moves.

The Suns landed the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft and secured a potential franchise player in Deandre Ayton, then signed veteran forward Trevor Ariza in free agency. Phoenix also locked up Devin Booker to a long-term extension. However, the club’s efforts to acquire a starting-caliber point guard have thus far been unsuccessful, a potential source of frustration for ownership. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), many potential trade partners that the Suns have spoken to have held out for an unprotected first-round pick in any deal.

McDonough’s tenure with the Suns began in May of 2013. The club won 48 games in his first season as general manager, but finished below .500 for the next four years, failing to record more than 24 wins in any of the last three seasons.

McDonough’s roster moves during his time in Phoenix have been hit and miss, with solid draft picks like Booker and T.J. Warren balanced out by less impactful top-10 selections like Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss.

The Suns have also rotated through three head coaches in the five years since McDonough was hired, going from Jeff Hornacek to Earl Watson to Igor Kokoskov. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the team’s hole at point guard might be particularly vexing for ownership since it wasn’t long ago that Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas were all on the roster.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Sarver – who has recently become more involved in the Suns’ day-to-day operations – is fond of Jones, who will become a candidate for the organization’s permanent GM job. Wojnarowski also suggests that Kevin McHale is a long-term candidate to watch, while Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated wouldn’t be surprised to see former Cavs GM David Griffin receive consideration for the Phoenix position (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Stein’s Latest: Pistons, Knicks, Bucks, Magic, Suns

Earlier today, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Pistons have expressed interest in Chauncey Billups for a potential front office role, with an eye on possibly pairing him with Arn Tellem in their basketball operations department. The report quickly drew responses from multiple sides — Billups stated that he would “never push for a job with any NBA franchise that is not open,” while a Pistons ownership spokesman simply called the report “false.”

Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) also hears from a source that there’s “nothing whatsoever” to the idea of a Billups/Tellem team-up in the Pistons’ front office, but Stein doubled down on the report in his latest newsletter for The New York Times, citing league sources who say that Detroit has “great interest” in hiring Billups. According to Stein, the Pistons believe they have a real shot to convince Billups to leave his TV job for an executive role.

Stein’s newsletter includes a few more tidbits on coaching and front office situations around the NBA. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There’s a growing belief that Knicks GM Scott Perry will want to hire his own hand-picked head coach at season’s end, says Stein. According to Stein, if the club replaces Jeff Hornacek and makes a high-profile hire, Mark Jackson and David Blatt would be among the candidates to watch.
  • With a move to a new arena around the corner, the Bucks may want to make a big splash with their next head coaching hire. League sources tell Stein that Jeff Van Gundy and Kevin McHale are among the names on the Bucks’ list of potential candidates, while Monty Williams and David Fizdale have also been mentioned. Rick Pitino could even get an “exploratory look,” says Stein.
  • There’s a “widely held assumption” in coaching circles that the Magic will replace Frank Vogel, according to Stein, who identifies Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse as possible targets for Orlando. All three of those coaches are in the Raptors organization, which is where Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman previously worked.
  • While Jay Triano will receive an interview as part of the Suns‘ head coaching search, Stein is hearing buzz that Triano is more likely to be asked to stay on as an assistant. Phoenix wants to explore the college ranks, and Villanova’s Jay Wright is one name that figures to come up during that search, per Stein.

Magic Await Permission To Talk To David Griffin

The Magic have submitted a formal request to the Cavaliers to speak with GM David Griffin, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Griffin is believed to be the front-runner to become Orlando’s president of basketball operations, with a report last month saying he will be offered the job when he becomes available.

The Cavaliers have not responded to the request, Wojnarowski adds, and have the option of holding onto Griffin until his contract expires at the end of June. With free agency starting July 1st, it’s possible that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will deny the interview request as a stall tactic to see if Orlando turns to someone else.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Gilbert hasn’t made a substantive offer to try to keep Griffin, who built the Cavaliers into a championship team after LeBron James returned in 2014. James has been an outspoken advocate of keeping the GM, but his public comments seem to have had little effect on negotiations.

The Magic are getting ready to start interviewing other candidates for the position, including Hall of Famer Kevin McHale and Bucks GM John Hammond, who still has a year left on his contract in Milwaukee. Interim Magic GM Matt Lloyd has already been through the interview process and is highly thought of in the organization, according to Wojnarowski.

Orlando launched a front-office shakeup when the season ended, firing GM Rob Hennigan and assistant GM Scott Perry. The Magic plan to put control of the front office in the hands of a president, who will then hire the next GM.

The team faces competition from the Hawks, who recently relieved Wes Wilcox of GM duties. Griffin is seen as a candidate in Atlanta, along with former Pistons executive Joe Dumars, Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Knicks director of player personnel Mark Hughes and former players and current TV analysts Chauncey Billups and Brent Barry. Wojnarowski reports that the Hawks have received permission to interview Rosas and Hughes.

Two More Candidates For President’s Post In Orlando

Two more names have emerged as contenders for the president of basketball operations role in Orlando, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

A report last weekend said the Magic will offer the job to Cavaliers GM David Griffin when his team’s playoff run is over. Kevin McHale has also been mentioned as a possibility. Stein reveals that Milwaukee’s John Hammond and Toronto’s Jeff Weltman are under consideration as well.

Hammond has served as GM of the Bucks since 2008 and was named Executive of the Year in 2010. He received a one-year contract extension from the team last summer that will take him through next season, with the plan that he would transition to a consultant and be replaced by assistant GM Justin Zanik.

Weltman was promoted to GM of the Raptors last September. He joined the team in 2013 after five years as assistant GM of the Bucks. Weltman also held front office positions with the Pistons, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Magic have already started the interview process, but CEO Alex Martins said he expects it to take a long time.

Magic Considering Kevin McHale As President

Hall of Famer Kevin McHale is among the candidates to become team president in Orlando, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

The TNT analyst would bring plenty of experience to the position. He served as president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves from 1995 to 2008, and twice took over as the team’s coach. His last NBA job was as coach of the Rockets from 2011 to 2015.

The Magic are hoping to hire someone with previous GM experience to fill the president’s role. However, McHale is also being considered for a front office position in Minnesota.

Orlando also has strong interest in Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who is not signed beyond this season. That explains why the process has gone so slowly since Rob Hennigan was fired April 13th, as the Magic have hired a search firm but have not spoken to any candidates. Griffin isn’t expected to discuss the job in Orlando until Cleveland’s playoff run is complete.

Amick adds that interim GM Matt Lloyd remains a candidate to keep that post on a permanent basis.

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Chalmers, Stuckey, McHale

The Cavaliers were happy with what they saw at today’s playmaker auditions, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.comMario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich, Jordan Farmar and Lance Stephenson all participated in a workout as the Cavs search for a reliable backup to Kyrie Irving. Several sources told Vardon that the session went very well and that one or more could be signed by March 1.

There’s more tonight from the Central Divsion:

  • Veteran swingman James Jones thinks Chalmers, his former teammate in Miami, would be a good addition to the roster, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Chalmers teamed with Jones and LeBron James on Heat teams that reached four straight NBA Finals. A torn Achilles last March has kept Chalmers out of the league, but he was medically cleared for basketball activities in August and Jones has kept in touch with him throughout rehab. “Coming back from an injury is a lonely process,” Jones said. “What I mean is that you spend a lot of time alone and learn a lot about yourself, but he’s doing well. He pushed hard, he worked hard to come back from that and he’s feeling well and moving well. I’m just glad that he’s back and doing what he loves, which is playing basketball.”
  • Rodney Stuckey returned to the Pacers tonight after a 15-game absence with a hamstring injury, write Jordan J. Wilson and Nate Taylor of the Lafayette Journal and Courier. Stuckey had been participating in practice and said he felt “back to normal” since last Monday, but team trainers remained cautious. Stuckey suffered a right hamstring strain during the second game of the season and sat out the next 10. He came back November 18th, but it started hurting again less than a month later. “Coming into the season, my body felt great,” Stuckey said. “It felt like I was in great shape. Mentally I was ready and then all of the sudden, boom, a hamstring. Then boom, another hamstring. I’ve never had hamstring problems in my career.”
  • Celtics legend Kevin McHale is backing up Rajon Rondo, who criticized Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler for going to the media with complaints about teammates last week. In an interview on Sam Amick’s A to Z podcast, McHale said success and failure in the NBA is determined by star players. “You don’t lose because your eighth man’s in a slump,” McHale said. “It’s the top players who’ve got to drive your team to win.”

Celtics Notes: McHale, Thomas, Durant, Horford

Immediately after he was fired as coach of the Rockets in November, Kevin McHale received a job offer from the Celtics, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. He hasn’t joined the organization yet, but McHale appreciates the gesture from president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, his former teammate. “Danny and I are very good friends,” McHale said, “and once he heard about it, he basically called up and said what a bunch of BS it was, first of all. He said, ‘I feel bad for you.’ Then he said, ‘Any job you want up here, you just let me know.’” One exception, of course, was head coach Brad Stevens‘ job.

“Danny said, ‘You want to help the big guys? You just want to come in and see where it fits? You just tell me,” McHale continued. “Whatever you want to do, you let me know and we’ll make it work.’” McHale, who still had two years left on his Rockets contract, did some television work this season, but is not in a hurry to get back into coaching or front office position.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Point guard Isaiah Thomas was unhappy that Boston missed out on Kevin Durant, but he believes the Celitcs made their best effort to attract him, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Boston was among five teams that met with Durant last weekend in the Hamptons, and Thomas was part of the Celtics’ contingent. “I walked out thinking we had a chance at him,” he said. “But I didn’t think he was going to go to the Warriors; I definitely didn’t think that. But leaving that meeting, I had a sense he was leaving OKC.”
  • Thomas can finally reveal the name of the player who asked him during this season’s All-Star break what it was like to play in Boston, writes Mark D’Amico of Celtics.com. It was Al Horford, who signed a four-year, $113MM contract with the Celtics. “I wrapped that one up, I just didn’t want to say anything,” Thomas said. “I knew he was coming to Boston for sure.”
  • Thomas has offered to be a recruiter to help Ainge add some more talent, relays Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Thomas said he knows a few players who would like to join the Celtics and named one veteran who he believes would help the club. “I know there is an old guy out there named Jason Terry — he can still hit some shots,” Thomas said. “That’s my old head. I know there’s some shooters out there that can put the ball in the basket and hopefully we can get our hands on them.” Terry, 38, is a free agent after spending the past two seasons in Houston. He played for the Celtics during the 2012/13 season.

Top Target McHale Pulls Out Of Race For Kings Job

The Kings made Kevin McHale their top target as they seek a new coach, as Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link), but McHale has withdrawn his candidacy, league sources told Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The ex-Rockets coach had reportedly had extensive discussions with Sacramento about the opening, if not a formal interview, though doubt about his willingness to ultimately take the position has existed for weeks.

McHale’s withdrawal comes shortly before a 10am Central time press conference that Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has scheduled. Coach Frank Vogel‘s job is in jeopardy, and belief around the league is rising that the Pacers will let him go, Stein writes. McHale and Bird were Celtics teammates from 1980-92.

Sacramento also reportedly had interest in Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Kenny Atkinson and Luke Walton, but all have since taken head coaching jobs with other teams. Still no shortage of Kings candidates remain. Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro and Mike Woodson have already interviewed, according to earlier reports. The same appears to be true of David Blatt and Mark Jackson. The team reportedly has plans to interview Ettore Messina, James Borrego, Henry BibbyPatrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, Nate McMillan, Jeff Hornacek and Corliss Williamson.

Sacramento has reportedly received permission from the Grizzlies to interview assistant Elston Turner, but USA Today’s Sam Amick reported Monday that he’s a candidate to serve as lead assistant for the Kings, casting doubt on the idea that he’s in the running for the head coaching job. Jay Larranaga, Brian Shaw, Ime Udoka, Jeff Van Gundy and Monty Williams are the other reported head coaching candidates for Sacramento.