Lloyd Pierce

Southeast Notes: Nunn, McMillan, Butler, Hornets

Kendrick Nunn has reestablished himself as a starter and that’s a big reason for the Heat‘s resurgence, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. During the Heat’s 10-3 stretch, Nunn has averaged 17.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.3 SPG. Nunn will be headed to restricted free agency after the season.

“Defensively, he has really helped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This has been a year and a half process of really learning our system, being held accountable to that, growing comfortable and being able to defend different ways.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Nate McMillan, who was named interim head coach of the Hawks on Monday, confirmed that Lloyd Pierce talked him into being his replacement, according to Charles Odum of The Associated Press. McMillan initially rebuffed GM Travis Schlenk’s offer to take the reins. “We had a conversation about the team and the move … and he just felt he didn’t think this would happen but he felt I could step in and do a good job with the team,” McMillan said. “He basically felt I should take this opportunity.”
  • Heat swingman Jimmy Butler will miss his second straight game on Tuesday due to right knee inflammation, Chiang tweets. Miami has one more game remaining prior to the All-Star break — a road matchup with the Pelicans on Thursday.
  • The Hornets are the latest team to receive approval to have fans in the stands. According to a team press release, they will host crowds at 15% capacity, or approximately 3,000 fans, beginning on March 13.

Multiple Hawks Players Reportedly Wanted Coaching Change

There was hope entering the season in Atlanta that the previously-existent friction between Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and star guard Trae Young would be a thing of the past, but it reemerged as the season progressed, according to Chris Kirschner, Sam Amick, and David Aldridge of The Athletic. And the Athletic trio suggests that Young wasn’t the only Hawks player frustrated by Pierce’s coaching style.

Sources tell The Athletic that several members of the Hawks were “eager to hear a new voice,” and that multiple players recently shared their desire for a change with team management. By the time Pierce was let go on Monday, player support for him was dwindling, per Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge.

As the trio details, there wasn’t a single moment this season that resulted in Pierce losing the locker room, but it happened over time due to a number of small moments that added up.

“There’s no telling when he lost it,” a source close to the team told The Athletic. “He didn’t have support from many people. It came down to him not being able to manage egos. That’s what did him in, especially these young guys. It’s tough.”

The Athletic’s report, which is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber, includes many other interesting tidbits on the Hawks’ coaching change. Here are a few highlights:

  • Pierce’s job security was already tenuous by the end of the 2019/20 season, but a number of factors – including the abrupt hiatus and Pierce’s strong voice during the social justice movement – helped save his job for the time being, according to The Athletic’s report.
  • Multiple Hawks players felt last season as if they weren’t having their concerns heard when they approached Pierce about them, and started going to assistant coach Chris Jent with those concerns instead, per The Athletic. Players once again felt unheard this season when they asked Pierce about adjusting the late-game offense to make it more free-flowing.
  • Sources tell The Athletic that Cam Reddish was among the players who bristled at Pierce’s coaching style and felt as if he was being “picked on” behind the scenes. According to Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge, some Hawks players believe Reddish’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s on the roster and thought Pierce’s approach was stunting his development.
  • The Hawks’ fourth-quarter struggles this season bothered team owner Tony Ressler, who “grew incensed” when the club kept losing winnable games by blowing late leads, per The Athletic’s trio. GM Travis Schlenk has said the decision to fire Pierce was his and his front office’s, but at the very least, Ressler had to sign off on it.

Hawks Notes: Pierce, McMillan, Schlenk, Bogdanovic

Addressing reporters on Monday night following the announcement of Lloyd Pierce‘s dismissal, general manager Travis Schlenk didn’t offer a ton of specific details for why the Hawks made a head coaching change, simply stating that the team was underachieving relative to its expectations, as Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution writes.

“As we said at the beginning of the season, our goal was to have progress this year, to move forward,” Schlenk said. “And we just felt like that wasn’t happening as quickly as we wanted it to. … We felt like for the organization, it was the best thing for us to do moving forward.”

Hawks owner Tony Ressler has admitted to pressing for the team’s big spending spree during 2020’s free agency period and badly wants to get back to the postseason. However, Schlenk said that he and his basketball operations staff made the decision to move on from Pierce, with Ressler’s approval.

“Certainly Tony signs off on all major moves we make on the basketball side or on the business side, as far as that goes, but this wasn’t a decision that Tony made,” Schlenk said, according to Spencer. “… I don’t think it’s any secret that Tony is very passionate and wants the organization to be successful. He’s willing to give us all the resources that we need to be able to do that. Up to this point in my tenure here, he’s been extremely supportive of any decision I feel like we needed to make, and this was the same situation here.”

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Nate McMillan will be the Hawks’ interim head coach and is the first candidate named by Chris Kirschner of The Athletic in his list of possible permanent coaching options for Atlanta. Schlenk was noncommittal on Monday when asked about the possibility of McMillan holding the job permanently, stating that the Hawks will cross that bridge when they get there, per Spencer.
  • Pierce’s firing raises some bigger questions about the Hawks’ decision-making, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who suggests the clock has begun ticking on Schlenk and the front office, especially if the team’s 2020 free agent additions don’t start providing more value soon. While injuries to Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn, and De’Andre Hunter this season have been unlucky, the signings of Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo look like “clear failures,” Hollinger contends.
  • Schlenk shared some good news during his Tuesday morning appearance on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, announcing that Bogdanovic will play on Tuesday on a minutes restriction (Twitter link via Mike Conti). Bogdanovic has been out since January 9 due to a knee injury.
  • A pair of veteran NBA coaches – Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich – expressed disappointment in the Hawks’ decision to fire Pierce, as Dwain Price of Mavs.com and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relay.

Hawks Fire Lloyd Pierce

The Hawks have dismissed head coach Lloyd Pierce, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). The club has put out a press release officially confirming the decision to relieve Pierce of his duties.

“We would like to thank Lloyd for his work and commitment to not only the Hawks organization but the city of Atlanta. He and his wife, Melissa, are tremendous people who have made a positive impact throughout the city,” general manager Travis Schlenk said in a statement. “We have high expectations for our team on the court and we believe by making this change now that we can have a strong second half of the season.”

Pierce, who previously served as an assistant coach in Cleveland, Golden State, Memphis, and Philadelphia, was hired as the Hawks’ head coach by Schlenk in 2018. Pierce led the team to a 63-120 (.344) record in two-and-a-half seasons, with no playoff appearances.

The Hawks’ sub-.500 records in Pierce’s first couple seasons were to be expected, since the organization was still in rebuilding mode. However, there were increased expectations in Atlanta in 2020/21 — the club badly wants to make the postseason this spring following a major spending spree in free agency. The Hawks are just 14-20 after getting off to a 10-9 start, and have coughed up a number of fourth-quarter leads.

It’s worth noting that Atlanta has been hit hard so far in ’20/21 by the injury bug, with all of the team’s major free agent additions – Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn – missing at least a dozen games due to health issues. Dunn has yet to suit up at all for his new team, while up-and-coming youngster De’Andre Hunter has been out since January. However, it seems the Hawks’ decision-makers weren’t willing to attribute the club’s inconsistent and underwhelming play in the first half to those absences.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the Hawks are hoping that lead assistant Nate McMillan will take over as their interim head coach.

McMillan is certainly the most logical candidate to assume the reins on an interim basis — his résumé includes lengthy head coaching stints for the Pacers, Trail Blazers, and SuperSonics, and he ranks 22nd on the NBA’s all-time list with 661 wins as a head coach. However, McMillan – who is meeting with Pierce and the rest of Atlanta’s coaching staff this afternoon – has been “fiercely loyal in his support of Pierce,” Woj notes.

[UPDATE: Nate McMillan Agrees To Be Hawks’ Interim Head Coach]

Pierce, who is set to be part of Gregg Popovich‘s Team USA coaching staff at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, is the second NBA head coach to be dismissed during the 2020/21 season, joining former Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks Notes: Pierce, McMillan, Collins, Huerter

Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce expects to miss the team’s next two games to attend the birth of his second child, he told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Barring unexpected postponements, the next two games on Atlanta’s schedule are Wednesday and Friday in Boston against the Celtics.

As Spears writes, associate head coach Nate McMillan will assume interim head coaching duties in Pierce’s absence. McMillan has no shortage of past experience, with lengthy head coaching stints for the Pacers, Trail Blazers, and SuperSonics — he ranks 22nd on the NBA’s all-time list with 661 wins as a head coach.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • In an in-depth look at John Collins‘ situation in Atlanta, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report cites one front office executive who says the Hawks are “not in love with him” and writes that the two sides never got close to agreeing to a rookie scale extension before the season. Still, there’s an expectation around the league that Atlanta won’t actively try to trade Collins before this season’s deadline, Fischer notes.
  • Assuming the Hawks do keep Collins through the end of the season, rival executives don’t expect the team to let him walk for nothing, like the Kings did with Bogdan Bogdanovic this past offseason. Matching an offer or working out a sign-and-trade appears more likely. “They’re gonna make sure they get something for him,” one executive told Fischer.
  • Within the same story, Fischer says that although Kevin Huerter was available via trade last fall, rival teams now have “little sense” that the third-year wing is on the block.
  • The Hawks’ recent slump shows how badly the team misses De’Andre Hunter, especially on defense, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Without Hunter on the court, the team’s defensive rating is just 115.2, compared to 105.9 when he plays.

Southeast Notes: Martin Brothers, MCW, Hawks, Collins

Caleb Martin and Cody Martin remain out for the Hornets today due to coronavirus-related issues, and starting power forward P.J. Washington has been categorized as doubtful ahead of today’s contest against the Spurs, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

When the Martins and Washington initially were held out Friday, Bonnell was unable to provide any additional info (in another piece) on whether either Martin brother or Washington had actually yielded a positive or inconclusive test for COVID-19 or had entered the league’s contact tracing protocols.

There’s more out of the Southeast:

  • After a 19-game injury absence, point guard Michael Carter-Williams provided an ample boost for an injury-plagued Magic squad, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel“I’m always ready to go play the point,” Carter-Williams said. “Coach has me do it in practice sometimes. I’m always staying sharp in that area for moments like this, so we can go out there and not skip a beat and still be successful.”
  • The Hawks have struggled to preserve leads in the fourth quarter, having gone just 9-7 this season when they’ve been ahead entering the final frame, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I don’t know if it’s always been the fourth,” head coach Lloyd Pierce notes of Atlanta’s recent struggles. “We’re trying to find our rhythm. We’re trying to find guys to find that belief to finish the game.”
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if the struggling Heat should make a full-court press for two-way Hawks power forward John Collins. The power forward position has been problematic for Miami this season, while Collins – who is on an expiring contract – is averaging 18.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.6 APG for the 11-15 Hawks. He holds a slash line of .543/.391/.853.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Vincent, Monk, Pierce

Earlier this week, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk updated Mike Conti of Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (Twitter link) on the health and availability status of a handful of Atlanta players. Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and center Onyeka Okongwu could be available later this week. Sharpshooting forward Danilo Gallinari, a pricey offseason acquisition, will not be traveling with the club on the road this week but is nearing his own return.

Hawks shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, however, will miss “several weeks” as he continues to rehabilitate from the avulsion fracture in his right knee. JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets that later examinations did not reveal further ligament damage.

Meanwhile, after requiring a walking boot following a December 29 right ankle surgery, Hawks reserve guard Kris Dunn had the boot removed today, Sarah K. Spence of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Twitter link). He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • With the Heat lineup limited by coronavirus health and safety protocols and injuries, sharpshooting guard Gabe Vincent showcased his ability to perform at the NBA level, scoring a career-best 24 points in a 137-134 Tuesday overtime defeat to the Sixers. Vincent, signed to a two-way contract this season, could warrant a look even when all of Miami’s players return, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “He is a very good basketball player,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That extends far beyond spot-up shooting … Can guard multiple positions, competes, good team defender. Rebounds at his position. Offensively, you can play him like we did last night as our point guard.”
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer posits that shooting guard Malik Monk might be just what the doctor ordered as the Hornets struggle on offense. Monk not been a part of the Charlotte rotation yet this season. The 22-year-old has appeared in just two games for Charlotte this season, averaging 5.5 MPG. Across his four-year career, he is averaging 8.5 PPG, 1.9 APG and 1.7 APG.
  • In a roundtable of NBA writers for The Athletic, Chris Kirschner opines that Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce will be on the figurative “hot seat” this season. After a blistering 4-1 start, the Hawks went 1-4 in their subsequent five games. Several of those defeats came at the hands of the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Hornets, hardly Eastern Conference powerhouses. The Hawks are currently hanging onto the No. 8 seed in the East, having lavished significant offseason money on veteran depth.

Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce Cleared After Being Isolated

JANUARY 14: Pierce is no longer in isolation, Spencer tweets. He has been cleared by the NBA’s medical staff and can travel with the team to Utah.

JANUARY 13: Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce is remaining isolated in a Phoenix hotel room after a member of the team’s traveling party tested positive for COVID-19, a source tells Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She adds that the positive test didn’t involve a player, but several other Hawks personnel are isolating.

Everyone traveling with the team is tested daily, and Pierce tested negative Wednesday morning, Spencer writes. He is waiting for direction from the NBA’s medical staff and hasn’t been told how long he needs to isolate.

“I think I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I tested negative,” he said. “I’m absolutely fine, but I’ll adhere to whatever comes my way, whenever I find that information.”

Atlanta’s game with the Suns tonight was postponed because league health and safety protocols left Phoenix without enough available players. The Hawks are scheduled to leave tomorrow for Friday’s game at Utah, and Pierce told Spencer he expects to accompany the team. He said players will have to continue to adjust to sudden schedule changes.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the game, it’s an unfortunate situation across the league,” Pierce said. “I think for us, more than anything, it’s just making sure the guys can get on the court and get some work in. This whole season, the court time is limited. So we can’t afford to lose court time just because a game has been postponed, because that just sets us back even further.”

Hawks Rumors: Collins, Young, Offense, Pierce

During a film session on Tuesday following a disappointing loss to New York, Hawks big man John Collins expressed some displeasure with the way the team’s offense has been operating and the way Trae Young has been running it, according to Chris Kirschner and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources tell The Athletic that Collins talked about wanting to get into offensive sets faster and reduce early shot-clock attempts. He also said he wants to be more involved in the offense and would like to see more ball movement and flow.

Although there was no direct back-and-forth between Collins and Young, Collins’ criticism “caught the attention of the room,” per Kirschner and Amick, who report that Young later made it clear to others that he strongly disagreed with his teammate’s take.

“Trae is my brother regardless,” Collins said via text message when The Athletic asked him about the situation.

Some Hawks have agreed with Collins’ stance and believe that when he – and the team’s other offensive weapons – are featured more, the results are better, according to Kirschner and Amick.

However, The Athletic’s duo says there’s a belief that Collins’ frustration stems not only from a desire to maximize the Hawks’ talent, but from his contract situation. According to Kirschner and Amick, the 23-year-old – who believes he’s a maximum-salary caliber player – passed last month on a contract extension offer worth over $90MM. He’s hoping to prove this season ahead of restricted free agency that he’s worth the max, and may need the ball in his hands more to do so.

Here’s more on the Hawks from Kirschner and Amick:

  • Clint Capela had a private discussion with Young following Tuesday’s film session and pointed to his time alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston as a cautionary tale. Howard’s desire for more touches and Harden’s reluctance to give up the ball contributed to the dissolution of that union.
  • One Hawks player told The Athletic that he believes Young’s uninspiring performance on Wednesday stemmed from Tuesday’s film session. Head coach Lloyd Pierce called Young’s Wednesday performance (seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, with seven turnovers) “uncharacteristic,” while Kirschner and Amick suggest the star guard appeared “disinterested.”
  • Some Hawks players last season indicated that Young has room to improve as a vocal leader, and Pierce has encouraged growth in that area, per Kirschner and Amick. However, the “basketball relationship” between the coach and his star guard is still worth monitoring. A report last May suggested Young and Pierce haven’t always been on the same page, and multiple sources tell The Athletic that disconnect remains an issue.
  • Pierce, whose in-game decisions have been questioned at times by players since he was hired in 2018, is in a contract year, as his team option for 2021/22 hasn’t yet been picked up. However, a source with knowledge of the situation tells The Athletic that Pierce’s job isn’t in any immediate danger.

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.