Lloyd Pierce

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.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Silas, Diop, Higgins, Weaver, McMillan

New Rockets general manager Rafael Stone says he’s committed to building a championship team around James Harden, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. There has been speculation former Rockets GM and newly-hired Sixers executive Daryl Morey would try to acquire the former MVP.

“We’ve still got James Harden. Our goal is still to win a championship, and if you’ve got him, you’re halfway there,” Stone said. “It’s incumbent on me and (new coach) Stephen (Silas) and the whole team to figure out the rest of the whole, but the key piece is there.”

Silas embraces those expectations and the pressure that comes with it. “I’m a win-now coach,” he said. “To not have to deal with growing and all that type of stuff, to think championship right away, is exciting for me. And I’m prepared for it and ready for it.”

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Silas’ contract is a four-year deal, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston tweets. Silas was officially hired on October 30 after being one of the presumed finalists along with Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas, who has decided to remain in Houston and join Silas’ staff.
  • As previously reported, the team has talked to former Suns and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek about joining their coaching staff. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has uncovered a few other candidates that the Rockets are interested in hiring. Jazz assistant DeSagana Diop, Magic assistant Rick Higgins and former Sixers and Nets assistant Will Weaver are also possible additions to the staff, though Weaver is also a candidate for the Thunder’s head coaching job.
  • The front office aggressively pursued former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to join the staff but he opted to instead join the Hawks’ staff under Lloyd Pierce, Berman adds in another tweet. Atlanta is close to hiring McMillan, though no official announcement has been made.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Dragic, Wizards

The Hawks face a myriad of challenging roster decisions this offseason. In an extensive mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic addresses several possible options the team could take with its present and future roster. Kirschner suggests that intriguing young players Lonzo Ball, Kelly Oubre, or Derrick White could all be solid options for the team, but wonders how many of them are worth the Hawks’ No. 6 pick in the 2020 draft in compensation.

Kirschner continued to discuss the team’s future in a second mailbag, citing other young role players like De’Anthony Melton and Kris Dunn as solid free agent targets. In the 2020 draft, Kirschner sees guard Tyrese Haliburton and swingman Isaac Okoro as fascinating draft possibilities if the Hawks opt to stick with the sixth pick. Assessing how these various players gel with core Hawks players Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter will be key.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Southeast Division:

  • Goran Dragic, the Heat‘s leading scorer heading into the NBA Finals, has been listed as doubtful to return for Game 6 from the torn left plantar fascia he suffered in Game 1, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Dragic is coming off a five-year, $85MM contract he signed with the Heat in 2015, and will be an unrestricted free agent in the coming offseason.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines several of the best international prospects that could be available to the Wizards with the ninth pick in the 2020 draft. Guards Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon and swingman Deni Avdija comprise Hughes’s top international options.
  • The Hawks and coach Lloyd Pierce are focusing on honing their on-court communication whenever the 2020/21 season does eventually get underway, according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Forward Cam Reddish, the 2019 No. 10 pick, noted that engaging in dialogue during games was a focus of the team’s recent mini-camp, which ran from September 21 to October 1. “Definitely a key emphasis, we definitely have to talk on the court,” Reddish said.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Heat, Hawks, Vucevic

Magic center Mohamed Bamba is eager to leave his coronavirus difficulties in the past after having to depart Orlando early due to complications from the virus, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Bamba underwent a comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation after leaving Orlando, with results indicating that he’s on the right track to recovery, Parry notes. He’s since been cleared to return to basketball activities, which includes shooting and running.

“It’s kind of tricky because we’re in the offseason, so I’m not sure what 5-on-5 is going to look like,” Bamba said, recognizing the uncertainty of doing full-contact work. “I’m really eager to hear back from the team what their vision for me is in the near future. We don’t even know when the season is going to start. … I’ll be ready.”

Bamba contracted the virus on June 11 and began experiencing issues related to his conditioning in Orlando. It was later determined that he should leave the campus and undergo additional tests for his safety, with the 22-year-old playing just 10 minutes across two games in the league’s restart.

“Absolutely. Getting all those tests done was probably the most important thing that I’ve done all year, besides vote,” he said. “It was really important. It’s a matter of just making sure that I’m taking care of my body and making sure I’m ruling out anything that could be harmful.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • In his latest mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel ponders whether the Heat should roll with their current roster moving forward. Miami currently owns the best postseason record in the NBA at 7-1, with the team’s Game 5 against Milwaukee coming on Tuesday.
  • In his own mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines a number of topics related to the Hawks, including the rising expectations for head coach Lloyd Pierce and what will happen if the team fails to make the playoffs next year. Atlanta is set to sport a core consisting of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela and a number of young players next season, including the No. 6 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic earned redemption after a record-setting first-round playoff series against the Bucks, Parry writes in a separate story for the Orlando Sentinel. Vucevic averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds in five games, shooting 51% from the field and 40% from deep — a noticeable improvement from last year’s dismal first-round performance against the Raptors. “He’s been inside and outside,” coach Steve Clifford said of Vucevic. “He’s done it all. He creates so much offense for our team and he puts so much pressure on the defense because of the nature of how he plays.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Pierce, Jones, Wizards

Addressing the Hornets‘ upcoming offseason in a recent conversation with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak reiterated many of the points he has made before about his team’s priorities. According to Kupchak, the Hornets won’t be a major player in free agency this fall and won’t be drafting for positional need with their lottery pick.

“We have some nice pieces that we like, but to compete in this league at a high level, our talent level isn’t where we need it to be,” Kupchak told Bonnell, referring to the Hornets’ need to draft for talent over fit. “I don’t feel we have the luxury of being able to, at this point, pick-and-choose the position (of greatest need).”

While Kupchak acknowledged that the Hornets should have a chunk of cap room available this offseason, he stressed that he doesn’t feel as if free agency “is the answer for us at this time,” hinting that the club could instead use its cap space on the trade market.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about a number of subjects, including his hope that Atlanta will improve its depth this offseason by adding veterans who can help the club on and off the court. “We have to add some veterans, rotational, professional depth, and experience to complement our young guys,” Pierce said. “We have nine guys, I believe under contract right now, so we have roster spots to fill.”
  • Just four days after sustaining a scary-looking neck injury, Heat wing Derrick Jones was cleared to return to action today, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Jones has been part of Miami’s rotation during this afternoon’s game against Indiana.
  • Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns the Wizards, is indefinitely furloughing 232 full-time employees due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports Scott Allen of The Washington Post. The furloughs affect over a third of approximately 600 full-time employees that work for the company in departments such as sales, marketing, game day operations, and community relations, Allen adds.
  • The Wizards are parting ways with four performance and medical staffers, including head athletic trainer Jeff Bangs, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Pierce: Exclusion From NBA’s Return Would Hurt Hawks

If the NBA moves forward with a plan to have its top 22 teams resume the 2019/20 season, the Hawks would be one of the eight clubs left out. Amidst reports that the proposal has growing support, Atlanta head coach Lloyd Pierce told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols today that he’s still hoping his team will get a chance to be part of a return to play this summer.

“I coach the youngest team in the NBA,” Pierce said. “And the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point. … If the season is going to resume and we’re still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season.”

A desire to be part of the NBA’s resumed season has apparently been unanimous throughout the Hawks’ organization — general manager Travis Schlenk has said he’s in favor of the franchise finishing the season, and team owner Tony Ressler reportedly expressed a similar sentiment on last Friday’s Board of Governors conference call.

As we noted in that story on Friday’s call, some of the NBA’s lottery-bound teams are concerned about facing a nine-month gap between games. Besides the potential impact such a lengthy layoff would have on fan interest, those clubs also don’t want to be apart from their players for so long.

That’s of particular concern for a young team focused on player development like Atlanta. Schlenk said last month that the Hawks would “play our guys” rather than sitting stars like Trae Young and John Collins, since the team wants those building blocks to get as much time on the court together as possible.

“I play young guys, I have young guys,” Pierce told Nichols. “They need game experience and so we need to play basketball, we want to play basketball.”

And-Ones: Yabusele, British League, Jones, NBCA

Former NBA forward Guerschon Yabusele has signed a one-year contract with LDLC Asvel, according to a press release from the French club (hat tip to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Yabusele appeared in four games for Asvel before the pandemic suspended play after beginning the season in China. Yabusele was drafted in the first round by the Celtics in 2016 and played 74 games over two seasons with Boston.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The British Basketball League has canceled the remainder of its season, according to a statement from the league. “We looked at every option, including playing behind closed doors or restarting the season in the summer, in order that we could get to a league and playoff winners, but with the continued uncertainty, we just ran out of time and options,” BBL Chairman Sir Rodney Walker said. “The clubs were united that now was the right time to bring the current season to a close.”
  • Veteran NBA forward Terrence Jones has signed with Team Washington for TBT 2020, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The Basketball Tournament is a 5-on-5, winner-take-all event with a grand prize of $2MM. Jones has played with Houston, New Orleans and Milwaukee since being drafted 18th overall back in 2012.
  • A number of prominent coaches have been selected by the National Basketball Coaches Association for a committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale and Stan Van Gundy were among the coaches selected to a committee in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a continuing pattern of violence and intolerance toward African Americans in the U.S.

Hawks Rumors: Pierce, Bembry, FAs, Collins

In a look at some of the offseason questions that the Hawks will have to address later this year, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic points to head coach Lloyd Pierce‘s job status as one of those unanswered questions. As Kirschner explains, Pierce has done a good job developing Atlanta’s young players, but there are other factors that could impact his job security.

For one, star guard Trae Young hasn’t always been on the same page with Pierce, according to Kirschner, who suggests the All-Star guard has disagreed with some coaching decisions and didn’t love Pierce’s comments about Young not being named a finalist for Team USA’s roster. Sources with knowledge of the Hawks star’s thinking “have confirmed that his relationship with Pierce isn’t strong,” Kirschner writes.

Some Hawks players have also questioned Pierce’s in-game decisions and rotations. According to Kirschner, one player even offered the following assessment when discussing those decisions: “It’s almost as if we actually are tanking on purpose.”

Here are some other subjects that Kirschner touches on in his story for The Athletic:

  • DeAndre’ Bembry has been a personal favorite of Pierce’s, but he may have played his last game for the Hawks, according to Kirschner, who hears from sources that the RFA-to-be was “readily available” leading up to the trade deadline.
  • Kirschner is also skeptical that Jeff Teague or Damian Jones, who will be free agents this offseason, will be back with Atlanta in 2020/21. However, he believes Skal Labissiere is a candidate to be re-signed, despite not yet playing a game for the Hawks, since the recently-acquired big man has long been a favorite of GM Travis Schlenk.
  • If the 2019/20 season doesn’t resume, the Hawks won’t get a chance to evaluate the on-court fit between Clint Capela and John Collins before the latter becomes extension-eligible, and Kirsher thinks it’ll be hard for the team to offer Collins a massive long-term deal without having seen whether that frontcourt pairing works.
  • Given the lack of a clear-cut hierarchy at the top of this year’s draft, Kirschner speculates that the Hawks would be open to trading down or trying to trade that pick for an impact player, even if they were to land the No. 1 selection. Schlenk showed a willingness to move down in 2018, passing on the chance to select Luka Doncic.

Hawks Frustrated But Pierce Not On Hot Seat

The Hawks have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams this season, with Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Knicks dropping them to the very bottom of the Eastern Conference at 6-22. League sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that frustration has been building within Atlanta’s locker room during the team’s first-half slump.

As Haynes details, teammates have complained to one another about selfishness, accountability, and not putting in the necessary work to turn the Hawks’ season around. Sources tell Haynes that the roster is missing a “true vocal leader who command the respect of his peers” and that the club needs to put in work to “strengthen the connection with a few significant players.”

Despite a dismal couple months, head coach Lloyd Pierce is not on the hot seat in Atlanta, according to Haynes, who notes that the organization is remaining patient with Pierce in part because the team has been without big man John Collins since early November. Collins was suspended for 25 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program and will be eligible to return next Monday.

If the Hawks’ struggles and locker-room issues continue after Collins’ return, Pierce’s seat may begin to heat up, Haynes writes. Atlanta’s head coach has a guaranteed contract through the 2020/21 season, with a team option for ’21/22.

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Turner, Jones, Wizards

James Johnson‘s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client has been absent from the Heat’s training camp because of his weight rather than his conditioning, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp until he reaches that weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley. Bartelstein said Johnson passed the team’s conditioning test and will return to the team “shortly,” Jackson adds. Johnson has a $15.3MM salary this season with a $16MM player option next season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wants to take advantage Evan Turner‘s versatility, Kevin Chouinard of the team’s website tweets. Turner will serve as the backup point guard and will also be employed as a small-ball power forward along with playing the wing. Turner was acquired from the Blazers for Kent Bazemore.
  • Forward Jemerrio Jones is trying to gain a role with the Wizards via his rebounding and hustle, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details.  Jones, who played six games with the Lakers last season as a rookie, has a $1,416,852 salary, but less than $200K is guaranteed. “I go hard in the paint,” he said. “[Fans] are going to like the hustle in me. You gotta pay people to play hard now, but it’s in me.” Jones was acquired in the three-team blockbuster that brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
  • Thomas Bryant inspires his other young Wizards teammates to exceed expectations, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Bryant, who was cut loose by the Lakers, earned a three-year, $25MM contract after replacing injured Dwight Howard as the starting center last season. “The opportunity that he got, making the best of getting cut, it’s incredible for me to observe,” second-year center Moritz Wagner said. “I’m very happy to do this with him together.”