Larry Drew

Clippers Promote Tyronn Lue To Head Coach

OCTOBER 20: The Clippers have officially announced the hiring of Lue in a team press release.

OCTOBER 15: The Clippers and assistant Tyronn Lue have agreed to a deal that will promote him to fill the team’s head coaching vacancy and lock him up to a new five-year contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Lue was the Clippers’ lead assistant under head coach Doc Rivers during the 2019/20 season. When Rivers and the Clippers parted ways last month, Lue immediately emerged as the frontrunner to fill the newly-opened head coaching position.

A former head coach in Cleveland, Lue compiled a 128-83 (.607) regular season record during two full seasons and parts of two others with the Cavs. He led the team to three straight appearances in the NBA Finals, including a championship in his first season as head coach in 2016.

Lue’s championship résumé and his familiarity – and ability to communicate – with the Clippers’ players were major factors in the team’s decision to promote him to replace Rivers, according to Wojnarowski. Woj previously reported that Lue’s understanding of the pressures of the job was important for Los Angeles. Lue was also said to have the support of “prominent players” on the roster.

Mike Brown, Darvin Ham, Wes Unseld Jr., and Sam Cassell also interviewed for the Clippers’ head coaching vacancy.

Lue was nearly hired in 2019 by the Lakers but couldn’t reach an agreement with the club on the terms of a deal, prompting the franchise to turn to Frank Vogel. Now, after the Lakers won a championship and the Clippers flamed out two rounds earlier, Lue will be tasked with leading Los Angeles’ other team to title contention. He won’t have much room for error, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both eligible to reach free agency during the 2021 offseason.

The Clippers’ decision to promote Lue – and his willingness to accept the job – will have a ripple effect on other teams seeking new head coaches. A popular head coaching candidate this year, Lue was also said to be one of the top contenders for the open positions in Houston and New Orleans. A deal between Lue and the Clippers may be good news for the Van Gundy brothers — Jeff Van Gundy is one of the Rockets’ frontrunners, while Stan Van Gundy is said to be a finalist for the Pelicans’ job.

Meanwhile, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Chauncey Billups is expected to join Lue in Los Angeles, becoming the lead assistant on his new staff with the Clippers.

Billups was said to be interested in pursuing a head coaching position this fall and is reportedly a candidate in Indiana. Woj and J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link) caution that Billups remains involved in the Pacers‘ head coaching search, but the former Finals MVP sounds prepared to join Lue in Los Angeles if he doesn’t get Indiana’s top job.

Billups has no previous coaching experience, but people around the league have long believed he’d land a significant role with an NBA organization due to his leadership style and “basketball savvy,” according to a September report. A separate report in August indicated that Lue and Billups may be a “package deal” if Lue got a job as a head coach this year.

Another former Cavs head coach, Larry Drew, is also expected to join Lue’s Clippers staff, according to Charania (Twitter link). Drew was an assistant in Cleveland from 2014-18 and received a promotion following Lue’s dismissal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavs Notes: Beilein, Drew, Drummond, Cap Room

With multiple members of the Cavaliers‘ front office away on vacations over the All-Star break, the plan is for them to reconvene in Cleveland on Wednesday, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. If there’s still no resolution by that point on John Beilein‘s status for the rest of the season, that resolution will likely come shortly thereafter. The Cavs are scheduled to resume play on Friday in Washington.

As we wait to see what Beilein and the Cavs decide, let’s round up a few other items out of Cleveland…

  • Beilein apparently isn’t the first Cavaliers head coach to consider an in-season departure in recent years. On an episode of the Tampering podcast, Joe Vardon of The Athletic said that interim head coach Larry Drew wanted to step down at the All-Star break in 2018/19, but was talked out of it by his agent (hat tip to RealGM). That’s not a particularly shocking revelation, considering Drew said in January 2019, “I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year.”
  • Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, second-year Cavs guard Collin Sexton expressed enthusiasm about teaming up with newly-acquired center Andre Drummond. “It’s amazing, just knowing that we have a big man down there who’s going to block shots, run the floor and dunk,” Sexton said. “It’s amazing, and it’ll allow us on defense to be a lot more aggressive and be into the ball because we know that we have a big guy back there who can block shots.”
  • Thanks to the NBA’s updated 2020/21 cap projection and a flurry of deadline trades, there will be far less league-wide cap room available this summer than initially expected, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. Leroux points to the Grizzlies and Cavaliers as two teams that significantly reduced their 2020 spending power as a result of in-season deals. Before acquiring Dante Exum and Drummond, Cleveland was on track to have nearly $36MM in space. Now, assuming Drummond doesn’t walk in free agency, the team projects to be over the cap.

Cavaliers, Larry Drew Agree To Part Ways

The Cavaliers and head coach Larry Drew have mutually agreed to part ways, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The team has confirmed the news in a press release.

Drew, who took over for Tyronn Lue on Cleveland’s sidelines very early in the 2018/19 season, wasn’t dealt a particularly strong hand this year. Following LeBron James‘ offseason departure, remaining star Kevin Love missed most of the season due to health issues, J.R. Smith was exiled from the club, and team management traded veterans like Kyle Korver, George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Alec Burks for future assets over the course of the season.

In total, Drew led the Cavs to a 19-57 record following the club’s 0-6 start under Lue. It was Drew’s stint third stint as an NBA head coach — he previously served as the Hawks’ coach for three seasons and spent a year on the sidelines for the Bucks.

While Drew didn’t do a bad job coaxing a strong effort out of his remaining veterans and developing rookie guard Collin Sexton, he never seemed enthusiastic about the idea of remaining in the Cavs’ head coaching role for the long term. He told The Athletic back in January, “I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year.”

A source tells Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link) that the Cavs offered Drew the opportunity to be part of their upcoming coaching search as one of the candidates they’d consider, but he “respectfully declined.”

With Drew no longer in the picture, the Cavs are expected to launch a wide-ranging search and will likely take a look at experienced NBA assistants such as Alex Jensen (Jazz), David Vanterpool (Trail Blazers), Nate Tibbetts (Trail Blazers), Wes Unseld Jr. (Nuggets), and Darvin Ham (Bucks), says ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez has also been identified as a potential target for Cleveland. Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that the team figures to examine the college ranks as well, with a focus on player development.

The Cavs are the third team to make a coaching change today, joining the Kings (Dave Joerger) and the Grizzlies (J.B. Bickerstaff).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavaliers Notes: Nwaba, Drew, Sexton, Frye

Having signed a one-year contract with the Cavaliers last summer in the hopes of playing a regular role, David Nwaba put up modest numbers in Cleveland, averaging 6.7 PPG and 3.2 RPG in 50 games (19.4 MPG) while playing solid perimeter defense. Now, he’s hoping for a longer-term stay with the Cavs, as he tells Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“I haven’t heard anything yet,” Nwaba said. “Hopefully everything works out where I’m back here. I don’t know what their plans are, but I want to come back.”

Nwaba, who missed time due to health issues in 2018/19, can be a restricted free agent this summer if the Cavaliers opt to issue a qualifying offer worth approximately $1.9MM. It remains to be seen if the team will do so.

Here’s more from out of Cleveland:

  • Prior to what could have been his last game as the Cavaliers’ head coach, Larry Drew sidestepped a question asking whether he wanted to keep the job in 2019/20, writes Fedor. “I really don’t want to get into that part of it right now,” Drew said. “What I really want to do is just finish this game tonight and (general manager) Koby (Altman) and I will sit down and talk about it. We’re going to give it a few days and we’ll sit down and discuss it.”
  • It has been mostly a lost season in Cleveland, but the development of rookie point guard Collin Sexton has been a major silver lining, as Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com details.
  • In an entertaining piece for Cleveland.com, Fedor spoke to several of Channing Frye‘s teammates, ex-teammates, and executives who know him well. Those sources shared their memories of Frye, who will retire after having played his last NBA game on Tuesday.

Latest On Larry Drew, Cavaliers

The Cavaliers and head coach Larry Drew have yet to discuss Drew’s future with the team, he told reporters on Sunday. As Tom Withers of The Associated Press details, Drew said that conversation will take place once Cleveland’s regular season ends.

While the Cavs haven’t confirmed that they’ll conduct a full-fledged coaching search this spring, they also haven’t done anything to give the idea that Drew will return, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. According to Vardon, NBA insiders would be “shocked” if Cleveland ultimately ends up retaining Drew, who has a club option for 2019/20. He’d receive a buyout if he’s not retained.

After replacing Tyronn Lue early in the season, Drew has done a decent job with a poor hand — he and the Cavs have had to deal with injuries all season, with star forward Kevin Love only having appeared in 22 games. The team has a 19-56 record under Drew.

Still, even if the Cavs were interested in bringing back Drew, it’s not clear that he’d reciprocate that interest. He told The Athletic back in January, “I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” adding that he hadn’t been looking to fill that role heading into the 2018/19 season.

“I think he’d be great for the future, but, I don’t even know if he wants it,” Love said of Drew, per Vardon. “He knows that I have his back and I think a lot of the guys have his back.”

If the Cavs do move on from Drew and give GM Koby Altman a chance to hand-pick his own head coach, there’s a good chance that Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez will get a serious look from the Cavs, sources tell Vardon. Vardon adds that the team is doing its homework on Luke Walton, who is widely expected to be dismissed by the Lakers.

Central Notes: Middleton, Bulls, Boylen, Cavs

Asked after the All-Star Game about his upcoming free agency, Bucks swingman Khris Middleton deflected the question, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays (via Twitter).

“I’ll think about the summertime in the summertime,” Middleton said. “We have a lot more work to do, hopefully. The second half of the season is going to be tough. We’ve been playing great basketball, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

While Middleton may not want to talk about it yet, he figures to draw a ton of interest in the offseason — he’d be an ideal complementary piece for a handful of teams with cap room, and may be a fall-back option for other clubs that miss out on stars like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. If they want to retain Middleton going forward, the Bucks will likely have to double his $13MM salary.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer lauds the Bulls for their traded-deadline acquisition of Otto Porter, arguing that the veteran forward is exactly the sort of piece the team needed, since he has the ability to make players around him better.
  • The Bulls haven’t had a ton of on-court success since Jim Boylen took over as the team’s head coach, but he has done what the team’s management group asked of him, instilling a “blue-collar identity,” writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, Boylen, who could earn up to $1.6MM next season, with $1MM guaranteed, currently looks very likely to return to Chicago’s bench for 2019/20.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com takes an early look at potential candidates for the Cavaliers‘ permanent head coaching job. According to Fedor, Larry Drew should receive consideration if he wants it, but Cleveland figures to cast a wide net and may target an up-and-coming coach that can grow with the team’s players during the rebuild.

Larry Drew Unlikely To Coach Cavs Long-Term

The Cavaliers have begun searching for a permanent head coach for 2019/20 and beyond, and Larry Drew isn’t believed to be a serious candidate, according to a report from Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. While Drew has served as Cleveland’s interim coach since Tyronn Lue‘s dismissal earlier this season, he’s unsure he’d want to return next season and doesn’t appear likely to be asked, per Vardon and Lloyd.

“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” said Drew, who has dealt with a constant stream of injuries since Lue’s ouster, guiding the Cavs to a 9-34 record.

According to Vardon and Lloyd, the Cavaliers will likely seek a first-time NBA head coach who has experience developing players and/or coaching in the G League. The club hasn’t yet begun reaching out to candidates or their agents, since the search is still in its infancy. However, The Athletic duo identifies six candidates who have ties to the Cavs or GM Koby Altman and could be fits. Those six candidates are:

  • Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez
  • Hornets assistant Steve Hetzel
  • Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin
  • Hawks assistant Chris Jent
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen

It’s not entirely clear whether Vardon and Lloyd are just speculating based on the criteria outlined by the Cavs and Altman’s history with those coaches, or if they have inside info on the club’s wish list. Either way, it seems safe to assume that at least a few of those assistants will receive consideration from Cleveland.

For now, Drew is still running the show and the 60-year-old coach admits that he’s happy Lue was let go early in the season — not because he wanted to supplant Lue, but because he believes the Cavs’ struggles this year would have been hard on the team’s former head coach, who battled stress and health issues last season.

“I wouldn’t want to see him go through this,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t want him to go through it from a physical and mental standpoint after some of the things that he went through. He deserves better after having won a championship. He deserves much, much better.”

When the Cavs initially replaced Lue with Drew, he resisted taking on the title of interim head coach until the team gave him a raise and a small financial guarantee for next season. Several months later, he still doesn’t sound like someone who wanted the job to begin with, as Vardon and Lloyd relay.

“I wasn’t looking to do this. I was not looking to do this at all,” Drew said. “But it happened. Ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.”

Central Notes: Lopez, Pistons, Cavaliers

As the Bucks have gotten off to a strong start, the improved floor-spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a key in taking the team to the next level. Of course, one of the key cogs in the Bucks’ rotation has been Brook Lopez, who is attempting nearly seven 3-pointers per game from the center position.

As Marc Stein writes for The New York Times, Lopez’s transformation into an elite shooter at center has made the Bucks offense even more dynamic and unstoppable. As Stein points out, once the Lakers decided not to bring Lopez back in the offseason, the Bucks pounced and added Lopez as a key offseason addition for new head coach Mike Budenholzer as he worked to modernize the team’s offense.

So far, the results speak for themselves. Antetokounmpo is averaging 18.9 points per game in the paint as a result of the increased floor-spacing around him, and the Bucks look to be a regular season power with their new offensive system.

There’s more from the Central division:

Central Rumors: Henson, Lopez, Sexton, Kennard

John Henson‘s wrist injury will cost him more than just a chunk of the season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN explains. The Bucks center will lose $750K in bonus money due to clauses in his contract. He was due $250K for appearing in 60 games and an additional $500K for 75 games. Henson, who is signed through next season, is expected to miss at least 12 weeks due to a torn left wrist ligament. Henson’s cap hit for the 2019/20 campaign will be reduced to $9.7MM after the season once the bonuses are deemed unlikely. That will give Milwaukee a little more financial flexibility next summer.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls center Robin Lopez has seen his playing time increase in recent games and the team may be showcasing him and his expiring contract, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Lopez is making $14.3MM and the team could acquire an asset and move him to a contender, where he could add toughness off the bench without a long-term commitment, Cowley notes. Lopez is downplaying the possibility of getting traded. ‘‘I’ve always found that I kind of play best when I go out there and play unencumbered or unhampered by things like that,’’ he said.
  • Collin Sexton may have taken over the Cavaliers’ starting point guard spot from George Hill, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland’s lottery selection is averaging 18.0 PPG and shooting 48.4% since Hill injured his shoulder earlier this month. “There are just guys who feel more comfortable starting than coming off the bench,” head coach Larry Drew told Fedor and other media members. “I think everybody wants to start, but everybody’s production as a starter is not very good. … Certainly with G-Hill out, Collin has definitely stepped up to the plate and made his presence felt and has made a major impact to what we’ve been doing.”
  • Pistons shooting guard Luke Kennard will be out a few more weeks, according to the team’s latest medical update. Kennard suffered a right shoulder AC joint sprain on October 25th. Kennard’s rehabilitation process will continue for an additional two weeks with a gradual intensification towards basketball activity. That suggests Kennard, a second-year guard, won’t be back until sometime next month.

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.