Mark Jackson

Knicks Rumors: Mills, Perry, Olshey, Coaches

Several members of the Knicks organization said this week that they expect president Steve Mills to be replaced at season’s end, or even earlier, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

The report is similar to one issued by Frank Isola of The Athletic last week. Isola suggested that Mills will be reassigned within the organization or let go altogether, but Begley hears from sources that the situation remains fluid. If the Knicks can turn things around this season, it may improve the odds that Mills sticks around, particularly since he still has years left on his contract beyond 2019/20, Begley writes.

The future of general manager Scott Perry is thought to be tied to Mills’ future to some degree, but not entirely. If Mills is dismissed during the season, the belief is that Perry would take over as the head of basketball operations on an interim basis, per Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks’ vision for their next head coach is someone who has the “stature and ability” to have success in the New York market, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Team officials want someone who can lean on prior success and experience, which explains why high-profile executives like Masai Ujiri and Sam Presti have been cited as potential targets.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post examines whether Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey might be another target for the Knicks, noting that the Blazers’ exec has strong New York roots. Olshey is happy in Portland, but a person close to him tells Berman that it may not be his last stop. “He’s got full autonomy here to run things as he sees fit and he’s pretty happy with his salary, I think,” that NBA official said. “He’s never going to be a huge fan of retiring in Portland as a city, so maybe this isn’t his final destination. But he’s not a big media guy even if he’s a big-city guy in some ways.”
  • According to Shams Charania, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, and Tom Thibodeau are among the names on the Knicks’ current head coaching wish list. Ian Begley agrees that Jackson has support within the franchise, adding that Jason Kidd is someone else who has organizational support.
  • Carmelo Anthony, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons with the Knicks, is holding out hope that the team will retire his number, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. “I think anybody would want that, if you have the opportunity to get that,” Anthony said. “We’ll see what happens when that time comes. Hopefully, they hang No. 7 up there somewhere. We’ll see what happens.”

Knicks Reportedly “Obsessed” With Masai Ujiri

The Knicks are “obsessed” and “enamored” with Raptors executive Masai Ujiri as the next man to run the franchise, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. A front office shakeup is expected in the wake of yesterday’s firing of head coach David Fizdale, especially considering the poor track record of team president Steve Mills.

Begley speculates it would take “significant money and full autonomy” to land Ujiri, who is already in a comfortable spot after building a championship team. Even if the Knicks are willing to grant that, Ujiri may not want to work for a controversial figure like James Dolan, and he is signed with Toronto until 2021, a contract he said in October that he plans to honor.

Echoing a report we shared last week, Begley states that the Knicks believe Ujiri could be drawn to New York City to provide a larger platform for his charitable work with the Giants of Africa Foundation. However, there was similar speculation about Washington, D.C., a few months ago when the Wizards were restructuring their front office, and Ujiri opted to stay in Toronto.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Despite a 4-18 start and six straight losing seasons, the Knicks’ front office job is still viewed as appealing around the league, Begley adds in the same story. The team has drafted well under general manager Scott Perry and has held on to its first-round picks. The Knicks also retained cap flexibility by signing seven players to short-term contracts this summer after failing to land their top targets in free agency.
  • A few players got to say goodbye to Fizdale before he left the team, Taj Gibson tells Begley (Twitter link). Gibson said Fizdale was emotional during the departure, adding, “Guys loved him.”
  • Mark Jackson, a former Knicks guard and ex-head coach of the Warriors, is a 5-1 favorite to be the next head coach, relays Adam Zagoria for Forbes. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag have Kenny Smith second at 6-1 and Italian coach Ettore Messina at 7-1. Next in line are three college coaches, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
  • Interim coach Mike Miller thanked Fizdale and the Knicks organization during today’s pre-game press conference (video link from Vorkunov). Neither Mills nor Perry has addressed the media since the firing became official, and nobody from management has commented apart from an unattributed statement that was released Friday.
  • Former NBA player Keith Bogans has been named to Miller’s staff, the Knicks announced on Twitter.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale Fallout, Potential Long-Term Replacements

The Knicks fired David Fizdale earlier today while also relieving Keith Smart of his duties as assistant coach. The move comes after a 4-18 start, which ties a record for worst in franchise history.

While Fizdale repeatedly told reporters that he had owner James Dolan’s backing, Jabari Young of CNBC.com hears from an agent who represents coaches around the league that the firing was “inevitable.” Assistant coach Mike Miller will now take over as the interim head coach with 60 games to go in the season.

Former Warriors coach and Knicks guard Mark Jackson has been linked to the team as a long-term candidate for the role (any major hire is likely to come in the offseason) and Young reports that Spurs assistant Becky Hammon would be interested in the job should the team be willing to offer her a long-term deal. Young mentions four or five years as the necessary length of the contract.

Young also mentions former Coach of the Year (2007) Sam Mitchell as a good candidate for the short-term, as Mitchell has a reputation for getting top effort out of players.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Jeff Van Gundy, Jason Kidd, and Tyronn Lue are among the former NBA coaches that Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic names as options for the Knicks. Vorkunov also lists several potential candidates without former head coaching experience, such as Jarron Collins, Stephen Silas, and Ettore Messina.
  • The firing of Fizdale won’t clean up the Knicks’ issues, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explains. Zillgitt believes that the front office should shoulder the blame for putting together this roster and simply expecting Fizdale to produce results with it.
  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post argues that the Knicks should fire team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. The regime put together a plan of signing big-name free agents and failed to deliver.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, M. Jackson, Ujiri, DSJ

Asked today about his reaction to an ESPN report that suggested team president Steve Mills is laying the groundwork to eventually fire him, head coach David Fizdale told reporters that he talks every day with Mills and GM Scott Perry, and that they’ve been supportive of him (Twitter links via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). However, it doesn’t sound as if Fizdale hasn’t received any specific assurances about his job security.

I got a two-and-a-half year contract,” Fizdale said, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). “That’s my assurance. That’s our business. The assurance is that I have a contract.”

According to Begley (video link), Knicks ownership isn’t expected to have a “heavy hand” in the team’s head coaching decision. Any move involving Fizdale would be made solely by Mills, says Begley.

As we wait to see what’s next for Fizdale and the Knicks, here are a few more notes on the team:

  • Chris Mannix of SI.com tweets that Mark Jackson is a name to watch if the Knicks make a head coaching change, since Jackson is a Perry favorite who was a candidate before the team hired Fizdale in 2018. Sean Deveney of Heavy.com identifies Kenny Smith, Chauncey Billups, Mike Woodson, and Tom Thibodeau as others who could emerge as candidates in that scenario, while Newsday’s Steve Popper (Twitter link) mentions Jason Kidd.
  • In response to a report that the Knicks may pursue Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri again next year, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets that he doesn’t believe Ujiri would ever want to work for Knicks owner James Dolan under any circumstance.
  • While the Knicks have been criticized for their return in last season’s Kristaps Porzingis trade, the club remains hopeful about Dennis Smith Jr.‘s long-term prospects and those two first-round picks coming their way, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “We don’t know what Dennis Smith is going to be,” Fizdale said. “He’s 21 years old. We’ve still got two first-round picks out of that. Who knows who that’s going to be? We won’t know exactly what comes out of that for a year or two.”

Magic Johnson Fallout: News, Rumors, Reactions, More

In the wake of Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation on Tuesday night, the Lakers issued a statement thanking him for his work with the franchise over the past two years.

“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive,” the statement reads. “… He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.

“As we begin the process of moving forward, we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.”

While Johnson admitted in his impromptu press conference on Tuesday that he didn’t inform owner Jeanie Buss of his decision to step down before announcing it to the press, Buss – at least publicly – showed no sign that she was angry about the move, though ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne hears from those close to the Buss family that they were “sad, angry, and disappointed.”

“Earvin, I loved working side by side with you,” Buss tweeted. “You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”

Reactions to and additional details on one of the most surprising developments of the NBA season have poured in over the last 12 hours, so we’ll round up many of them in the space below. Let’s dive in…

General news/rumors:

  • Johnson met for three hours with Buss on Monday to discuss the Lakers’ direction and gave no indication he was planning on leaving the organization, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka also visited with LeBron James and agent Rich Paul on Saturday and similarly gave no indication that he was thinking about stepping down.
  • Sources tell Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that Buss, Pelinka, CFO Joe McCormack, COO Tim Harris, and manager of special projects Linda Rambis sat down for an “all-hands-on-deck meeting” following Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday night. The Lakers’ franchise is currently “paralyzed” by the news, a team source tells ESPN.
  • People close to Johnson say he was “deeply offended” by the constant accusations of tampering that followed him during his two years with the Lakers, writes ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. An ability to once again speak freely about players around the NBA was one factor Johnson cited when announcing his decision.
  • Almost in passing, Johnson mentioned during his presser on Tuesday that he “could have led the Knicks when (president) Steve Mills called,” but he considers himself a “Laker for life” (Twitter link via Knicks Film School).
  • There have been rumblings for months that ESPN was working on a story that focused on Johnson’s mistreatment of employees and would be “extremely unflattering” for Magic, says Sam Amick of The Athletic. However, Johnson denied that was a factor in his decision to step down. “I know that article is not an accurate article. I can tell you that now,” Johnson said, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. “… Now it’s some disgruntled, former Laker employees (talking to reporters). Yeah, they gonna say (what) they gonna say, ‘cause they wasn’t doing their jobs. So what is a person going to do? Point the finger bad about the person who fired them.”

Luke Walton notes/rumors:

  • Luke Walton‘s contract runs for two more years, though 2020/21 is a team option, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Johnson planned to fire Walton before deciding instead to step down, Wojnarowski adds.
  • Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports provides additional details on the Walton situation, writing that Magic was displeased with the head coach’s ability to make in-game adjustments and also felt that the coaching staff “lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development.”
  • Sources tell Haynes that Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to do so and didn’t give Magic the go-ahead to make a change until recently. Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, and Mark Jackson would have been primary targets to replace Walton if Johnson had made a change.
  • During the infamous early-season meeting in which Johnson questioned Walton’s coaching performance, Magic told the head coach to “shut the f— up” at one point when Walton tried to intervene, says Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Reactions:

  • Lakers players and coaches were caught off guard by the news of Johnson’s resignation, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Walton said he found out about thew news when everyone else did, while Sam Amick of The Athletic confirms that LeBron didn’t know it was coming either. “What shocked me is how everybody else is shocked,” Rajon Rondo said. “Because nobody knew.”
  • Buss and the Lakers are better off without Johnson, Chris Mannix argues in a column for SI.com.
  • In his column for The Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke says the manner in which Johnson left the Lakers was as shocking as anything he’s seen during his 25 years covering the team. Plaschke also makes the case that Magic was never all-in on the job.
  • While the Anthony Davis saga wasn’t the main reason for Johnson’s resignation, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t help but notice that the two heads of basketball operations involved in those trade discussions are now unemployed, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com details. Gentry said he has never seen a situation as “toxic” as the Davis trade request during his time in the NBA. “Not this toxic, no,” Gentry said. “Not that affected two teams. And two guys. One lost his job, and the other one resigned from his job. So no, in 31 years I hadn’t had anything that would equal this kind of fallout. No, I haven’t.”

Next steps:

  • In a column for The Athletic, Bill Oram contends that Buss must look outside of her circle of friends to replace Johnson, focusing on the best and brightest NBA executives, since the Lakers’ job is a coveted one.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider-only link) writes that the Lakers need to find an executive who is willing to do the dirty work, appeals to star players, and who can set a positive culture. Pelton points to former Cavs GM David Griffin as one candidate who would fit the bill.

Pistons Notes: Stackhouse, Budenholzer, Armstrong, More

Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Budenholzer are two of the prominent names to look out for in the Pistons’ coaching search, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit parted ways with coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy on Monday. Stackhouse is a former Detroit player and served as the Raptors’ G League coach this past season. Stackhouse met with the Knicks before they hired David Fizdale and also surfaced as a candidate for the Magic and Hornets’ jobs. Budenholzer, the former Hawks coach, is arguably the top experienced head coach on the market. Former Cavaliers GM David Griffin is another name to watch as the Pistons seek a new front office leader, Ellis adds.

Former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, ex-Warriors coach Mark Jackson and ex-Pacers and Magic coach Frank Vogel could also be coaching candidates. Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. Chauncey Billups has previously been mentioned as a possible front office candidate, Sean Deveney of the Sporting News notes. Spurs assistant James Borrego and former Cavaliers coach David Blatt are among the other names to watch in the coaching search, Deveney adds.

In other news involving the Pistons-Van Gundy split:

  • Player agent and former Bulls executive B.J. Armstrong could be a candidate for a front-office position, Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. Armstrong has strong ties to Pistons chairman Arn Tellem and is a Detroit native. Goodwill adds.
  • Point guard Reggie Jackson was blindsided by the news of Van Gundy’s departure, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets. Jackson told Beard he was “stunned by the whole thing…it’s difficult right now to take the whole thing in.” Fellow point guard Ish Smith told Beard he would miss Van Gundy, adding that “he was really instrumental to my growth as a player.” (Twitter links)
  • Van Gundy’s coaching replacement needs to build the attack around the skills of Blake Griffin, Kevin Pelton of ESPN argues. His front office replacement will have to come up with creative ways to upgrade the roster around him despite salary-cap restraints, Pelton adds.
  • Griffin had some positive things to say about Van Gundy earlier Monday before the news of his departure broke. He made the comments during a podcast, which were relayed by USA Today’s Andrew Joseph“He’s actually a very cool guy. Very nice guy. Funny. And actually genuinely cares about people. That’s kind of rare.”

David Fizdale Gaining Traction In Knicks’ HC Search

5:24pm: Per Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, Fizdale has gained serious traction in the Knicks’ search for their next head coach.

In his story, Charania adds that while the Knicks interviewed a wide array of candidates for their vacant head-coaching position, Fizdale emerged as a leading candidate immediately after the Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek.

There is still no agreement between Fizdale and the Knicks.

11:37am: The Knicks appear to be getting closer to a decision on their new head coach, and Mike Budenholzer, David Blatt, and David Fizdale are among the candidates believed to receiving the strongest consideration, according to multiple reports.

NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence (Twitter link) hears from team sources that Budenholzer is a finalist, and adds that Blatt and Fizdale were “locks” to get at least this far in the process. Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) singles out those three candidates as well, suggesting they’re viewed as “prime contenders” for the Knicks’ head coaching job.

According to Stein (Twitter link), one other interesting wrinkle in the Knicks’ coaching search involves Mark Jackson, who has received a “strong behind-the-scenes push” from Rich Kleiman. In addition to being Kevin Durant’s longtime business partner, Kleiman is a lifelong Knicks fan who is close with both Jackson and team president Steve Mills.

In total, the Knicks’ list of interviewees included at least 11 names, as we detailed on Tuesday. However, it’s unlikely that all of those candidates are still in the running.

Knicks Interview Mike Brown, Aim To Hire New Coach Soon

The Knicks have completed their interviews for their head coaching vacancy, and will huddle this week to attempt to reach a consensus on Jeff Hornacek‘s replacement, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Woj, the club hopes to have a new head coach hired by the end of the week.

As Wojnarowski details, the Knicks conducted one final interview in addition to the meetings that have already been reported, speaking to Warriors assistant Mike Brown about their head coaching position. That brings New York’s list of reported candidates to 11 names. They are as follows, in alphabetical order:

  1. David Blatt (former Cavaliers head coach)
  2. James Borrego (Spurs assistant)
  3. Mike Brown (Warriors assistant; former Cavaliers head coach)
  4. Mike Budenholzer (former Hawks head coach)
  5. David Fizdale (former Grizzlies head coach)
  6. Juwan Howard (Heat assistant)
  7. Mark Jackson (ESPN analyst; former Warriors head coach)
  8. Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant)
  9. Kenny Smith (TNT analyst)
  10. Jerry Stackhouse (Raptors 905 head coach)
  11. Mike Woodson (Clippers assistant; former Knicks head coach)

Budenholzer and Blatt have generated the most buzz as potential targets for the Knicks, while Fizdale, Stackhouse, and Jackson were initially considered among the club’s top tier as well.

If the Knicks do name a new head coach this week, they’ll likely become the first team to complete a full-fledged search this offseason. The Grizzlies became the first team to hire a new permanent head coach last week, but they didn’t consider outside options, opting instead to promote J.B. Bickerstaff from the interim role.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers Culture, Rozier, Wright

Love or hate The Process, it produced a Sixers team that is every bit an Eastern Conference contender. Beyond the roster loaded with talent, however, is a strong culture, one that ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz points out is far more developed and nuanced than we all assumed while they were losing historically.

All of that was a time of learning, a time of progression, a time of really seeing the type of person you can become when you endure hard time,” said Sixers forward Robert Covington. “That journey made us who we are. The 18-win season, the 10-win season. All that, it built us up for this moment.

A mainstay for the team during those lean years is a tradition of having players give presentations about topics that resonate with them on a monthly basis. The result? A series of PowerPoint speeches over which Sixers staffers and stars have been connecting.

Arnovitz breaks down the motivation behind the Sixers’ discussions, which range from Covington’s lecture on snakes to Dario Saric‘s lesson on the Balkan conflict that shaped his childhood. If you dive into one #LongRead today, make it this one.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Consider David Lee a supporter of the notion that the Knicks should hire Mark Jackson. Lee played in New York and later for Jackson in Golden State. “Mark understands the difference in New York basketball. He’s from there,” Lee told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “He understands the politics, the fans, things involved unique to the Knicks. That’s an advantage he has.
  • A pair of Atlantic Division point guards have developed slowly over time. Now, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wonders if Delon Wright and Terry Rozier could eventually leave the Raptors and Celtics for a chance to play a bigger role on another squad. Both players will be eligible for extensions this offseason, and Toronto and Boston may not have the cap flexibility to invest in them for the long term.
  • The Nets have seen a trend of development in players that they’ve had for two or more seasons. Tom Dowd of the team’s official website writes that all eyes will be on D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and Jarrett Allen to see if they’ll show similar improvements when they reach their second year under the tutelage of head coach Kenny Atkinson.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks’ HC Search, Celtics, Embiid

Following up on Wednesday’s report that the Knicks will interview Kenny Smith for their head coaching position, Marc Berman of The New York Post classifies the TNT analyst as a long shot, suggesting that it may simply be a “courtesy interview,” unless Smith has interest in joining the coaching staff as an assistant.

A job as an assistant is also a possibility for Mike Woodson, according to Berman, who writes that there has been speculation about a scenario in which the Knicks hire Mark Jackson as their new head coach and bring aboard Woodson as Jackson’s top assistant.

The Knicks continue to go through the interview process, so it’s probably too early to suggest that the team is leaning toward a single candidate, but it still seems as if Jackson, David Fizdale, and David Blatt represent the top options for the club. Jerry Stackhouse was reported to be a part of the Knicks’ “top tier” of candidates too, but Berman’s sources suggest Stackhouse may be the top choice for the Magic.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Kyrie Irving blockbuster and the Celtics‘ lack of activity at the trade deadline generated most of the headlines during the 2017/18 league year, but Danny Ainge has done a nice job filling out the roster with under-the-radar acquisitions, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Forsberg points to the signings of players like Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis as moves that paid off for Boston.
  • While the Celtics have done an admirable job complementing their big veteran contracts with affordable rookie deals, the team will have to look ahead and consider which players are long-term keepers when their youngsters start getting second contracts, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. As Mannix notes, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier will be up for raises soon, with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to follow down the road.
  • While the Sixers and Joel Embiid – who remains doubtful to play in Game 3 – would both love to see the franchise center on the court during the team’s first-round series against the Heat, his orbital bone injury is “no joke,” writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Given the risk of further damage to Embiid’s eye, the 76ers are right to play it safe with Embiid this year, in Pompey’s view. That’s especially true when considering Philadelphia’s long-term investment in the young big man — his maximum-salary extension goes into effect in 2018/19.
    (Note: Embiid has been upgraded to probable for Game 3 — 3:55pm)