Mark Daigneault

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Daigneault, Gobert, Wolves

With Jamal Murray sidelined, Michael Porter Jr. will be the No. 2 option for the Nuggets in the playoffs alongside likely Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic. Porter is looking forward to showcasing the growth of his game on the big stage, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

“I’m welcoming it, I’m embracing it,” Porter said. “It’s where I wanted to be. Progressing, taking a jump. I want to take a jump every year, I’m never going to be content. … I’m excited to see what teams throw at me, and how I’m going to overcome those situations.”

Porter is eligible for a rookie scale extension prior to next season.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder GM Sam Presti was impressed by the performance of first-year coach Mark Daigneault during a rebuilding season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets“I think he did an excellent job … There was a significant amount of adjustments he had to make,” Presti said.
  • Rudy Gobert only missed one game this season and his impact on the Jazz is undeniable, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Gobert led the league in total plus-minus at plus-728 and ranked first in the NBA in defensive rating (100.6), defensive win shares (5.2) and total blocks (190). “When you look at other players in the league, his impact is at the highest level,” coach Quin Snyder said.
  • The Timberwolves have a solid starting five, regardless of how the draft lottery shakes out, Jim Souhan of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes. They also have some good young pieces on the bench and therefore they don’t need saviors, just more experience and growth, Souhan adds.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Saunders, Russell, Elleby, Daigneault

Karl-Anthony Towns‘ return to action remains up in the air, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. The Timberwolves star has been sidelined since testing positive for COVID-19 in mid-January. Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said Towns has been working out with the team on the road as he tries to get back into playing shape. He hasn’t played since January 13.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves had lost eight of 10 games without Towns entering Friday’s action, and D’Angelo Russell and Saunders don’t seem to be on the same page when the team attempts to close out games, Krawczynski notes. It takes time for a coach and a point guard to build trust, and they are working on that process right now, Krawczynski adds. Saunders is also struggling to maximize the backcourt combination of Russell and natural point guard Ricky Rubio.
  • Trail Blazers rookie CJ Elleby impressed coach Terry Stotts with his overall production when injuries thrust Elleby into the rotation on Thursday, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The 46th pick of the draft, Elleby had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. “He asserted himself into the game rather than just watching others play,” Stotts said.
  • Thunder coach Mark Daigneault likes the makeshift format of playing the same opponent in back-to-back games this season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “In the NBA schedule, you run into something that bothers you and you end up chasing your shadow but you’ve got a different opponent coming around the corner,” Daigneault said. “And so it’s hard to really spend too much time reflecting on the last game because you’ve got to turn the page. The series allow you to do both.”

Northwest Notes: Russell, Jerome, Hartenstein, Pokuševski

With Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns still out of commission due to a dislocated wrist, starting guard D’Angelo Russell has struggled as the new focus of the club’s offense, writes The Athletic’s Jon Krawcyznski. The Wolves have lost three straight games in which they have been down by at least 30 points.

Russell has recently been moved by Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders to the shooting guard position to play in tandem with distributor Ricky Rubio at the point. “It can’t be different every night. It’s going to be something we’re running with and we’re sticking with and we build from it,” Russell said.

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

  • Second-year Thunder guard Ty Jerome continues to recover from an ankle injury he incurred in training camp this season, Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman tweets“I think [it happened] in the first practice,” head coach Mark Daigneault. said. “He’s back in OKC on a return-to-play, getting his work in.”
  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post details how the Nuggets signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal in free agency this offseason. Hartenstein discusses his frustration with a lack of consistent chances on his prior squad in Houston. “With the Rockets, every time they gave me an opportunity I performed,” Hartenstein said.
  • Rookie Thunder power forward Aleksej Pokuševski has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion in a team practice today, according to a team press release. He has appeared in all five of the Thunder’s outings so far, and is averaging 16.0 MPG.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Towns, Daigneault, Maledon

After James Harden added the Trail Blazers to his list of preferred destinations this week, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard made a powerful statement Saturday night for keeping the current backcourt together, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. McCollum especially stood out in the win over the Rockets with 44 points, eight assists, and a game-winning three-pointer in overtime.

“What am I supposed to think?” McCollum responded when asked about trade rumors. “I play the same position as James. If there is a trade for James, who is going to be in the trade?”

McCollum’s $29.3MM salary also makes him a logical candidate to be included if the Trail Blazers need to match salaries with Houston, Quick adds. The 29-year-old has been a 20+ PPG scorer for the past five years and would help replace some of the offense the Rockets will lose by dealing Harden. McCollum prefers to try to win a title with Lillard in Portland.

“I think besides Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson), we are probably the only backcourt that not only gets along, but like, empowers the other,” McCollum said. “There is no competition. I don’t force my way into the game if he is playing well; he doesn’t force his way into the game. I just let whatever is going to happen, happen. I’m comfortable not taking shots, I’m comfortable playing a role. I do what is necessary for the team.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves got a scare when Karl-Anthony Towns had to leave Saturday’s game after falling hard on his left wrist, notes Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Towns returned to help Minnesota win at Utah, but the team won’t know how much damage was done until he undergoes further testing. “I didn’t want to just quit the game and go get X-rays and stuff,” he said. “I wanted to be available in case my team needed me, and just be out there cheering them on. I did what I had to do.”
  • Mark Daigneault impressed Thunder players with his calm demeanor in his first NBA game as a head coach, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Daigneault picked up his first win Saturday, but not before OKC let a big lead slip away at Charlotte. “We, myself, almost gave the game away,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “But (Daigneault was) super composed, kept our heads up, kept us confident. He was our leader down the stretch, even though things weren’t going the right way. And just in the right mind frame. Cool, calm, collected.”
  • Former NBA guard Tony Parker tells French outlet L’Equipe (hat tip to Stefan Djordjevic of EuroHoops) that Thunder rookie Theo Maledon should have been a first-round pick, but his stock fell because he wasn’t used properly in Europe by Zvezdan Mitrovic, the former head coach of Parker’s ASVEL franchise. OKC grabbed Maledon with the 34th selection.

Northwest Notes: Daigneault, Nuggets, Blazers, Holiday, Jazz

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault took a rather unique path toward his new position, starting out as a manager at UConn several years ago, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes.

“I’ve been with people that have definitely seen potential in me and definitely believe in me,” Daigneault said, “but they’ve given me these opportunities well before I’ve earned them. They’ve invested rather than rewarded.”

Oklahoma City promoted Daigneault, 35, as the franchise’s new coach this month, making him the second-youngest head coach in the league besides Minnesota’s Ryan Saunders. He first joined the organization in 2014 as head coach of the team’s G League affiliate.

“When Sam called me and offered me the job the other day,” Daigneault said, “I was just so overwhelmed thinking about all the people that have had their fingerprints on my life and career.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post explores the Nuggets‘ thinking ahead of the draft, with team president Tim Connelly offering his own perspective on the upcoming event. “Collectively teams are probably less certain what might be happening around them, what other teams are thinking, because we’ve lacked those avenues to get together and talk about what this team’s doing, that team’s doing,” Connelly said. “It should make for a fun night. There’s some clarity on the very top of the draft, and then after that, it’ll largely be a free-for-all.”
  • The Trail Blazers have expressed interest in Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor (Twitter link). O’Connor added that a potential trade between the teams remains unlikely, however, citing Portland’s lack of potential assets to include in an offer.
  • Sarah Todd of the Deseret News examines five prospects the Jazz should consider in Wednesday’s NBA draft. Utah owns the No. 23 pick this year, which could be used on a player such as Tyler Bey (Colorado) or Robert Woodard II (Mississippi State).

Thunder Promote Mark Daigneault To Head Coach

9:53am: The Thunder have made it official, announcing in a press release that Daigneault is the team’s new head coach.

“We are thrilled to have Mark assume the role of head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Presti said in a statement. “He has been a selfless and effective leader within our organization since his arrival in 2014. Mark is a values based leader, continuous learner, and someone that will help us continue the repositioning of our organization on and off the court.

“The amount of head coaching experience and diverse experiences through his tenure with the Blue is rare for someone his age. He has also shown the ability to empower both the players and staff he works with, and we are confident that he will help us continue to modernize our approach as an organization in a constantly evolving industry.”

9:07am: The Thunder are promoting assistant coach Mark Daigneault to fill their head coaching vacancy, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Daigneault, who worked under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida from 2010-14, was hired in 2014 as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G League affiliate. He held that role for the next five years before reuniting with Donovan in OKC in 2019, becoming an assistant on the Thunder’s coaching staff.

During his five years with the OKC Blue, Daigneault posted a 143-107 (.572) record, including a 96-54 (.640) mark during his final three seasons — the G League squad finished atop the Midwest division in each of those three years.

While a report last week indicated that Daigneault was receiving strong consideration for the Thunder’s head coaching job, he was still a somewhat under-the-radar candidate, given his age (35) and his limited experience at the NBA level.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that general manager Sam Presti is enthusiastic about Daingeault’s track record within the organization, as well as his ability to connect with players, teach the game, and make short- and long-term adjustments.

Donovan’s departure from the franchise in September was believed to be related to the fact that he didn’t have the appetite for a rebuild, and there are indications that the Thunder will be pivoting in that direction soon. The expectation is that the franchise will probably move on from veterans like trade candidate Chris Paul and free agent forward Danilo Gallinari, while focusing on building around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Luguentz Dort.

[RELATED: Suns pondering trade for Chris Paul]

The hiring of a first-time head coach like Daigneault is the latest indication that the Thunder may be taking a step back from contention in the next year or two — Daigneault should get the opportunity to grow into the job as the club’s young players develop, without the pressure of having to make the playoffs every year.

Will Hardy, Brian Keefe, Will Weaver, and Charles Lee were among the other candidates rumored to have been in the running for the Oklahoma City job before the team landed on Daigneault. With the Thunder poised to make Daigneault’s promotion official, all nine teams that made head coaching changes this year will have hired replacements, as our tracker shows.

Stein’s Latest: Thunder, Morey, Rose

Spurs assistant coach Will Hardy, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, and Oklahoma City assistant Mark Daigneault are among the candidates who have received strong consideration for the Thunder‘s open head coaching position, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times.

The only one of nine teams making a head coaching change this year that has yet to finalize a new hire, the Thunder are conducting a lengthy, deliberate search for Billy Donovan‘s replacement. While one of the candidates mentioned above could ultimately land the job, Stein admits that he wouldn’t be shocked if Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti hires someone who has yet to be connected to the vacancy. That would be the “Prestian move,” Stein writes.

With the draft just two weeks away and training camps expected to open next month, it likely won’t be long before we get some clarity on OKC’s search.

Here are a few more items of interest from Stein’s latest newsletter for The New York Times:

  • Industry sources estimate that Daryl Morey‘s salary on his new five-year contract with the Sixers is worth over $10MM per year, according to Stein, who adds that some people insist Morey’s new annual salary may even exceed $12MM. Morey had been planning to take a year off after leaving the Rockets this fall, but such an aggressive offer from Philadelphia would certainly have been a factor in his decision to change course.
  • Another new head of basketball operations in the Atlantic, Knicks president Leon Rose, is said to have received an annual salary in the $8MM range, writes Stein.
  • Stein’s newsletter also included a couple Rockets-related notes, which we passed along in an earlier roundup.

Thunder Notes: Paul, Carmelo, Daigneault

Making an appearance on Sunday night’s broadcast of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Thunder point guard Chris Paul was asked how he feels about spending the “twilight years” of his career with a retooling Oklahoma City team. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN details, Paul expressed no complaints about his time in OKC and seemed to welcome the idea of remaining with the club.

“I just love to hoop,” Paul said. “(Former Thunder coach) Billy Donovan was amazing. My teammates have been amazing. So, for me, you call it twilight years, I call it a blessing. Just being able to compete at a high level at 35 years old, (I’m going to) just keep rolling.”

Trade rumors have swirled around Paul since the day he was sent to OKC in July 2019. Having traded away Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Jerami Grant and stockpiled draft picks, the Thunder were viewed as a strong candidate to go all-in on a rebuild. However, the team ended up keeping Paul and exceeded expectations during the 2019/20 season, compiling a 44-28 record and pushing the Rockets to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

Paul, who now has just two years left on his pricey contract, figures to become a trade candidate again this offseason. But if the Thunder front office doesn’t find a deal it likes, it sounds like the veteran point guard will be fine with returning to Oklahoma City for at least one more season.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • Like Paul, Carmelo Anthony says he liked playing in Oklahoma City, though he admitted that the Thunder team he was a part of in 2017/18 didn’t outperform its expectations like this year’s group did. “For me personally, I actually really enjoyed my time at OKC. That team, I enjoyed it. Being around those guys, I enjoyed it,” Anthony said during an appearance on J.J. Redick‘s The Old Man and the Three podcast (link via Nick Crain of Forbes). “Granted, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. The goal was to win with that team. We didn’t do it. We underachieved. … I wish OKC would’ve worked out.”
  • If the Thunder decide to stay in-house and promote a current assistant to fill their head coaching vacancy, Mark Daigneault would be a prime candidate, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who takes a closer look at the OKC assistant.
  • In case you missed it last week, Precious Achiuwa, RJ Hampton, Tre Jones, and Tyrell Terry are among the draft-eligible prospects who have met with the Thunder.