Lloyd Pierce

And-Ones: USA Basketball, Mayo, Mejri

Grant Hill has taken over as USA Basketball’s managing director and one of his first tasks is to find a replacement for coach Gregg Popovich. Hill told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that he plans to hire a new coach before the NBA season begins on October 19.

Candidates that have previous experience with USA Basketball will have the upper hand, according to Spears. That group would include Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, Jay Wright, Doc Rivers, Nate McMillan, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra and Jeff Van Gundy.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo has reached an agreement with Russia’s Unics Kazan, Sportando relays. Sport-Business.ru was first to report the news. Mayo was banned by the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s drug program. Mayo has recently played in China.
  • Former Mavericks big man Salah Mejri has reached an agreement with Al Jahra in Kuwait, according to Sportando. Mejri appeared in 204 games with Dallas from 2015-19.
  • In case you missed it, Jarrell Brantley is expected to sign with a Russian team after being waived by the Jazz. Get the details here.

Central Notes: Love, Pistons, Pacers’ Staff, Sexton

Kevin Love‘s decision to withdraw from the Olympics raises more questions for the Cavaliers about his future, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Love is still bothered by the right calf strain that limited him to just 25 games this season, an alarming development for Cleveland, considering Love still has two years left on his contract. Rather than using his experience with Team USA as a springboard to a career revival, Love may be facing the prospect of seeing his career come to an abrupt end. The Cavs will soon have conversations with Love about his health issues, Fedor adds, though retirement has not been discussed or considered.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • While there has been plenty of speculation about whether the Pistons are sold on Cade Cunningham as the No. 1  pick, it’s in their best interests to keep their intentions secret, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. If GM Troy Weaver has any desire to trade the pick, it’s best the others come calling with increasingly better offers, rather than Weaver openly shopping it.
  • The Pacers officially announced in a press release that former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, Ronald Nored, Mike Weinar and Jenny Boucek will be assistant coaches under Rick Carlisle. Pierce is currently an assistant with Team USA. Nored spent the past three seasons as an assistant with the Hornets, while Weinar spent 13 seasons with the Mavericks, four as an assistant coach. Boucek was also on Carlisle’s staff in Dallas the past three seasons.
  • Although the Cavaliers have made Collin Sexton “very available” according to a recent report, they’ve put a hefty price tag on him, Fedor writes in a separate story. The Knicks have had discussions with the Cavs about Sexton but they’re just one of many teams monitoring the situation, according to Fedor. Cleveland may ultimately be better off holding onto Sexton next season and not signing him to an extension, then allow him to become a restricted free agent next summer. In that scenario, another team can set the price tag for Sexton and Cleveland can choose whether or not to match it.

Lloyd Pierce Finalizing Deal To Be Carlisle’s Top Assistant

The Pacers are finalizing a contract with Lloyd Pierce that would make him Rick Carlisle’s top assistant, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Pierce was reportedly under consideration for a similar job with the Warriors. Pierce was replaced by Nate McMillan as the Hawks’ head coach on March 1 after the team began this season with a 14-20 record. Multiple players reportedly pushed for a coaching change.

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

Pierce is also on Gregg Popovich’s Team USA staff for this month’s Olympics.

Former Knicks coach David Fizdale reportedly turned down an offer from Indiana to join Frank Vogel’s staff with the Lakers.

California Notes: Jackson, KCP, L. Pierce, Warriors

Clippers starting point guard Reggie Jackson appears to have discovered a good NBA fit in L.A. after several prior stops, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Jackson emerged as the club’s clear starting point guard since being inserted into the starting lineup in Game 3 of the team’s first-round series against the Mavericks. He is averaging for 17.8 PPG, 3.2 APG and 3.0 RPG across 17 games in these playoffs.

Shelburne notes that Jackson has been red-hot since becoming a starter during the postseason, and he has made his impact felt in a big way with L.A. Shelburne notes that the Clippers are plus-104 with Jackson on the floor, and he joins just two other players in league history to connect on at least three 3-point shots across 14 playoff contests.

“I’ve gone through my career trying to make the right play and not necessarily just being myself and coming out and playing the game,” Jackson said of his career before the Clippers. “But the more I just continue to be myself, the more this team empowered me to be myself, I’ve been able to find success.”

Jackson admitted that he contemplated retirement from the NBA last summer, before the Clippers came calling for a return appearance after he joined the club late in the 2019/20 season. “I was ready to leave. I was ready to give up,” Jackson said. “I thought I was going to retire because I just couldn’t get healthy.” Jackson inked a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal during the 2020 offseason, and should be in line for a major raise this summer thanks to his playoff output.

“It’s just about being positive and showing him that he’s wanted,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “One thing about Reggie, he’s always going to come in, speak to everybody, shake everybody’s hand… Whoever’s in the gym, general managers, the president, the owner, the equipment guys.”

There’s more out of California:

  • Lakers starting wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was robbed of an estimated $150K in belongings at gunpoint in front of his Los Angeles-area home, per TMZ Sports (h/t to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). Caldwell-Pope and his friends at the scene were not physically harmed. The LAPD is currently looking into the theft.
  • Former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce is being eyeballed for a potential position as an assistant coach under Warriors head coach Steve Kerrtweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Poole notes that both coaches will serve on the US Olympic Team’s bench under Gregg Popovich this summer. Pierce was let go by Atlanta after the team began the 2020/21 season with a disappointing 14-20 record. He had been the head man for the Hawks since 2018. A longtime NBA assistant, Pierce previously logged time as a Warriors assistant during 2010/11 under then-head coach Keith Smart.
  • With Klay Thompson poised to return after missing two full seasons due to lower-body injuries, the Warriors appear to be gearing up for a deep playoff run once again. Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area considers four free agent wings the team could add on affordable deals to fill out its bench.

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.

Brad Stevens Named Celtics’ Head Of Basketball Operations, Will Lead Search For New Coach

10:06am: The Celtics have officially announced that Stevens is the new president of basketball operations. Despite at least one report suggesting that Ainge isn’t expected to retire from basketball (as noted below), the club’s statement says the veteran executive is “retiring” from his role as president of basketball ops. Ainge will continue to work with the team through its offseason transition, per the C’s.

“Helping guide this organization has been the thrill of a lifetime, and having worked side-by-side with him since he’s been here, I know we couldn’t be in better hands than with Brad guiding the team going forward,” Ainge said in a statement. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”

Stevens issued a statement of his own, as follows:

“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity. I’m excited to tackle this new role, starting with a wide ranging and comprehensive search for our next head coach. I love the Celtics, and know the great honor and responsibility that comes with this job. I will give it everything I have to help us be in position to consistently compete for championships.”

9:24am: A major shakeup is taking place in Boston, as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will indeed step down from his current role, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski had reported earlier in the morning that Ainge was seriously considering such a move.

The Celtics won’t go outside the organization for Ainge’s replacement, however. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links), head coach Brad Stevens will be making the move from the sidelines to the front office and will become the club’s new president of basketball operations.

Rather than holding a dual role, Stevens will become a full-time front office executive and is expected to lead the search for the Celtics’ new head coach, Charania reports.

Celtics players were informed of this potential change late on Tuesday night after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, says Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Ainge had been contemplating leaving his job as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations for the last several months, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who adds that Ainge had discussed possible succession plans with ownership.

While Stevens is a surprising choice as Ainge’s successor, Wojnarowski points out that Ainge made a similar move early in his post-playing career, having coached the Suns from 1996-99 before later transitioning into a front office role. According to Woj (Twitter link), Stevens has been described as feeling “worn down” with coaching since last summer and welcome the opportunity to shift into an executive position.

This major basketball operations overhaul comes on the heels of the Celtics’ early exit from the postseason. After making the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years, Boston entered the season with aspirations of competing for a title.

However, due to COVID-19 issues, injuries, and inconsistent play, the team never built any real momentum toward legit contention, finishing seventh in the East. Although the C’s earned a postseason berth via the play-in tournament, they were eliminated swiftly in the first round by the Nets.

Despite the Celtics’ disappointing season, Stevens and Ainge – one of the longest-tenured coach/executive duos in the NBA – weren’t thought to be in any real danger of being fired. It appears Ainge’s exit is of his own volition after he spent the last 18 years calling the shots in the team’s front office.

Even though his time with the Celtics is ending, Ainge isn’t believed to be leaning toward retirement, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who tweets that the Jazz have been rumored as a possible landing spot for the veteran exec.

Meanwhile, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce are expected to be among the candidates to fill Boston’s newly-created head coaching vacancy, according to Haynes (Twitter link).

In his eight seasons as the Celtics’ head coach, Stevens led the team to a 354-282 (.557) regular season record, with a 38-40 (.487) mark in the playoffs, including those three Eastern Finals appearances. As for Ainge, the C’s made the postseason in all but three of his 18 seasons running the front office, taking home a title in 2008.

Ainge’s trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2008. Additionally, the blockbuster deal that sent an aging Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets for a boatload of draft picks in 2013 is considered one of the biggest NBA heists of the century, putting Boston in position to land Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in subsequent drafts.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lou Williams Considered Retirement After Trade

Veteran guard Lou Williams contemplated retirement following the trade that sent him from the Clippers to the Hawks on Thursday. As the three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner explained in a post on Instagram, being dealt away by the Clippers – his team for the last four years – hit him hard.

I thought about retiring yesterday. You give so much to an organization and you wake up and boom, it’s no more,” Williams wrote. “Then in true Clipper nation fashion I was reminded that my talent and contribution was appreciated and it made me reflect on what’s to come. There’s plenty left in my tank and I’m privileged to continue my career in my backyard.”

The Clippers didn’t want to move Williams, but he was the only salary-matching piece that made sense in their deal for Rajon Rondo, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

The Hawks, incidentally, received high marks on that trade from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link). Rondo hadn’t been effective this season and was owed a guaranteed $7.5MM salary for 2021/22, so trading him for Williams’ expiring $8MM deal and multiple second-round picks was an “enormous win” for Atlanta, Pelton argues.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Although it’s a win for the Hawks overall, the Rondo trade will cost the team a respected veteran leader in the locker room, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, who says some players were going to the point guard for guidance over former head coach Lloyd Pierce. Kirschner notes that Williams, a 16-year veteran, should help replace Rondo’s leadership.
  • With Rondo gone, the Hawks don’t have a clear-cut backup point guard, but general manager Travis Schlenk said today that he thinks Williams can fill that role, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and others also sharing ball-handling responsibilities, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schlenk added that the team will count on Williams to inject more offense into a second unit that has often struggled to score without Trae Young on the floor.
  • Atlanta never had any “serious conversations” about a John Collins trade prior to Thursday’s deadline, Schlenk told reporters. “We’ve been steadfast that we view John as a big part of our team, a big part of our franchise,” the Hawks’ GM said, according to Spencer. “Like with all our players, we do our due diligence to see what their value is, but I don’t think that you’ve ever heard myself or anybody else in the Hawks organization say that we don’t place great value on John. We do.”
  • Schlenk told reporters today that the plan is for Kris Dunn (ankle) to scrimmage on Monday, and that the guard could make his Hawks debut near the end of the team’s current West Coast road trip, tweets Spencer. That trip concludes on April 2 in New Orleans.

Hawks Notes: Hunter, Pierce, Collins, Oladipo, Young

Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter did not receive a second PRP injection in his right knee, which increases the possibility he could return to action this month, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Hunter was originally projected to return in late March or early April after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on February 8. With the decision that a second PRP injection wasn’t needed, his timeline could be accelerated 7-10 days.

Hunter has increased his rehabilitation activities to include unrestricted weight room work and progressive court reloading, according to a team press release. His status will be updated on March 19.

We have more on the Hawks:

  • In response to reports that several players lobbied for a coaching change, former head coach Lloyd Pierce said it’s the nature of the business on a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview (hat tip to the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore). “I understand as the head coach it’s always going to be on me to make sure I put my guys, my staff, in position to operate successfully. So the relationships aren’t great. They are never going to be great. I’m the guy who has to pull the guy out of the game when he doesn’t think he needs to come out. … My job is not to be best friends with these guys. My job is for them to understand me, to respect me, to know I have a plan and vision and I got to get them to try to execute that.
  • In a separate piece, Kirschner opines that the Hawks shouldn’t trade John Collins, arguing that the young big has gotten better each year, and there’s still room for improvement. He also fits well with Trae Young, though the front office doesn’t view Collins as a team’s second-best player on a championship-level squad. Kirschner also argues against pursuing Victor Oladipo in a trade, noting the team has already invested heavily in wing players.
  • Interim coach Nate McMillan and his potential successor will have to design an offense that empowers more than Young, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer opines. The head coach will also have to get Young to buy in to a more balanced system.

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.