Mike D'Antoni

Restart Notes: Medical Reviews, Announcers, More

The NBA is expected to ask team personnel members to submit their personal medical histories to a panel of physicians in advance of this summer’s resumption in Orlando, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe.

As Wojnarowski and Lowe explain, that panel would assess each individual’s level of risk for serious health complications due to the coronavirus. If certain individuals are deemed to be “more vulnerable to severe coronavirus outcomes,” the panel may recommend that they don’t travel to Orlando.

Wojnarowski and Lowe caution that the NBA and its panel likely won’t have the authority to prohibit anyone outright from participating in the resumption of the season in Orlando based on potential health risks. Legal experts tell ESPN that the league also wouldn’t be able to exclude anyone based solely on that person’s age, including head coaches Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Mike D’Antoni (Rockets), and Alvin Gentry (Pelicans), all of whom are at least 65 years old.

Still, as Woj and Lowe write, it’s possible that the NBA’s medical review process could result in a recommendation that the league and an individual’s team strongly encourages them to follow. The NBA also could place certain limitations on those deemed to be at higher risk, a possibility that is causing some “anxiety” among teams, sources tell ESPN.

As we wait to see what measures the league takes in an attempt to keep its players, coaches, and other staffers as safe as possible, let’s round up a few more notes on the NBA’s restart…

  • It sounds like play-to-play announcers and color commentators will call games remotely when play resumes this summer. TNT’s Kevin Harlan said as much during a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview, as Richard Deitsch of The Athletic relays. “What I’ve heard from the folks at TNT is we will be in the studios in Atlanta and they will set up as close to possible a broadcast table like we would have courtside,” Harlan said. “We will have, I’m assuming, crowd noise pumped into our headsets. I think for the viewer, I don’t think it’s going to seem dramatically different.” Harlan added that it’s possible broadcasters could be brought to Orlando late in the postseason.
  • Appearing on ESPN’s First Take (video link), Brian Windhorst describes some of the challenges that players will face living in the Orlando bubble and explores how drug testing will work.
  • Although all eight teams not invited to Orlando this summer agree that they’d like to be able to conduct some form of offseason activities with their players, those teams aren’t necessarily in lockstep about what that should look like, and there are plenty of logistical hurdles to work through, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

Adam Silver Addresses NBA Return

NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared on TNT’s Inside The NBA this evening to discuss the league’s officially confirmed 22-team return this summer. Silver touched on a potpourri of topics.

Though more radical season structuring options were discussed, Silver hailed Hornets owner and former five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan as being an important voice in helping pass the current resumption plan. Silver mentioned that Jordan did not want the league’s return to feel “gimmicky” with excessive playoff format tweaks, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Hall of Fame player-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley asked Silver about the NBA’s protocol for dealing with a player testing positive for COVID-19, as cited by Tania Ganguli of the LA Times (Twitter link). Silver mentioned that this had been discussed with health officials. The league would not need to pause play, but instead would isolate the player and use contact tracing and daily testing to contain the spread.

Silver delicately handled questions about how the league would deal with older coaches on team benches, mentioning that “certain coaches” might not be able to be present on the sidelines, per an exchange captured by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich are the three head coaches who, at 65 and older, would be at elevated risk of serious COVID-19 complications were they to contract the virus. Assistants like Jeff Bzdelik (Pelicans) and Lionel Hollins (Clippers) also fall within that age bracket.

Gentry voiced his displeasure with the notion of being separated from his team, per Ramon Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). “That doesn’t make sense,” Gentry said. “How can I coach that way?”

D’Antoni also questioned the idea of singling out older coaches with more protective measures, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). “I am sure they want to keep everyone safe,” D’Antoni said. “But to start singling people out with more risk, well, I would hope they wouldn’t want to get into that.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tells Woj (Twitter links) that he talked to Silver and the commissioner “admitted that he jumped the gun” with his comments on older coaches.

“It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s,” Carlisle said. “The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”

Coronavirus Notes: McCollum, Nance, D’Antoni, More

The Trail Blazers are one of three teams reopening their practice facilities on Friday, and CJ McCollum plans to visit this weekend, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. However, McCollum remains apprehensive about the fact that team facilities are opening at all.

“I am worried like the rest of the world, but I like that it is optional and I’m pleased with the caution, structure, and measures the Blazers organization has put in place to ensure the safest environment possible for all parties involved,” McCollum said. “I get the measures (the NBA is) taking, but you have to think at some point when there are drastic measures that need to be taken, ‘Is it really worth it?’ It’s either safe or it’s not.”

As McCollum explains to Haynes, he’s unsure how the social-distancing measures in place for individual workouts will work (“They’re talking about (how) you might have to be 12 feet away from your strength coach. How are you going to lift 12 feet away from somebody?”). However, he intends to go into the Blazers’ facility on Saturday to assess whether it’s possible to safely conduct a workout with so many restrictions in place.

McCollum also admitted that it’s difficult to know how intensely to work out, since players have different regiments for the season and offseason. While he continues to prepare as if the season could be back this summer, he doesn’t know what the future holds for the league.

“I’m probably as optimistic as the casual fan,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “Some days you feel like there’s a chance, and then some days you’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ But in the meantime, if you go to work out at the facility, I get it. Work out, but we’ve got to figure out a balance between what’s safe and what’s forcing it.”

Here’s more on the coronavirus shutdown and the NBA’s response:

  • Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. tells Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links) that he plans to visit the Cavaliers’ practice facility after it opens on Friday. As Stein explains, that’s significant because Nance deals with Crohn’s disease, which is generally treated with immunosuppressive medication that can make patients more vulnerable to infections. Nance has confidence in Remicade, the drug he takes to combat the disease, per Stein.
  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is the league’s second-oldest head coach at age 69, which could put him at greater risk if he were to contract the coronavirus. However, sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN that D’Antoni would feel comfortable being on the sidelines if the NBA resumes the season, since he has confidence that Adam Silver and the league would create as safe an environment as possible.
  • Appearing today on CNBC (video link), Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry expressed optimism that all NBA teams will be able to reopen their practice facilities by the end of May and that – if there are enough COVID-19 tests to make it possible – games could start by August (Twitter link via NetsDaily).

Southwest Notes: Jackson Jr., Ivey, Rivers, D’Antoni

The Grizzlies will have to defend their playoff position if the NBA can salvage a significant amount of its regular season, but Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn’t mind as long as he can get back to basketball, writes Jason Munz of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis held a three-and-a-half-game cushion over the Trail Blazers, Pelicans and Kings for the eighth spot when the hiatus began. The NBA has discussed scenarios that include going straight to the playoffs or fitting in a few more regular-season games.

“I mean, whatever. I’m down just to play, honestly,” Jackson said. “I know there’s talks about if they need games before the playoffs to get us ready for the playoffs, or they just want to hop right into (the postseason). I would be cool with either, honestly. We’re in the playoffs (if the regular season ended today), so I’m biased. I’d rather just run it.”

Jackson, who is among the many players without access to a basketball hoop during the shutdown, also addressed the potential adjustment of playing in empty arenas.

“I think we’ve all, at some point, played AAU or some form of it,” he said. “Whether you were overseas or not, like, you played a certain type of amateur basketball that is kind of like that. So it will definitely remind you of that and bring back memories. I think everybody will be fine, honestly.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies assistant Niele Ivey is the new women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, the team announced today. She came to Memphis in the offseason after 12 years as an assistant with the Fighting Irish. “In her first year with the Memphis Grizzlies, Niele made a lasting impact on the floor, but even more so off the floor through her relationships with the players, fellow coaches and staff, including the relationship we built coach-to-coach,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins.
  • Rockets guard Austin Rivers is likely to opt out of his $2.4MM salary for next season and test free agency, states Danny Leroux of The Athletic, who previews Houston’s offseason along with Kelly Iko. The Rockets hold Early Bird rights on Rivers and can start his new contract at nearly $10MM per season without having to use their mid-level exception.
  • If Houston decides to part with head coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, Leroux suggests the Pelicans might be his best destination. Of course, that could only happen if New Orleans decides to fire coach Alvin Gentry. Leroux notes that D’Antoni has connections with Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin from their time together in Phoenix and might bring the best offensive philosophy to help develop Zion Williamson.

Rockets’ Morey Talks Draft, Roster, D’Antoni, More

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is hopeful that the NBA will be able to resume its 2019/20 season, since he feels as if his club is in a good spot to make some noise in the playoffs. Speaking to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Morey said he was pleased by the way Russell Westbrook and James Harden had meshed in recent months.

“I think we’re as well positioned as we’ve ever been with our current situation,” Morey said. “Maybe we’re not the ’96 Bulls, but I think we’re a team that can win the title in any given year, including this one.”

Morey declined to comment on whether he believes the season can be salvaged, but said he’s “confident in general” about the NBA’s outlook: “I’m optimistic in a lot of ways that we’ll come out of this crisis and that basketball will come out of it as well.”

Feigen’s Q&A with Morey included several other interesting tidbits, as the Rockets’ GM discussed his draft preparations, Mike D’Antoni‘s future, the club’s ability to spend, and more. Let’s round up some of the highlights…

On preparing for the draft despite not having a first- or second-round pick:

“We have a long history of buying (draft picks), which I think has a reasonable chance of happening. We also might have a trade to trade (into the draft.) Actually, having no pick ends up harder than having a pick. You normally don’t want to roster more than one to three rookies in a given year. We generally like to roster at least one because I think it is smart to always have a developmental pipeline going.

“You’re preparing for a much wider list. You have to be ready to trade into the first round. You have to be ready to buy a pick. You have to be ready for the crush as teams chase undrafted players. We’re going to prepare everything now because we just don’t know how much time there’s going to be between things like we normally know.”

On the Rockets’ roster going forward:

“Our (trade) deadline really set us up well. Not only did we shoot for a better structure of our core players, that they fit together better, but also allowed us to be more flexible going forward to add players that we think overall as we allocate our player spending. We were over-weighted at the five spot. This opens up ability to spend at other spots.”

On whether the Rockets want to retain D’Antoni and his staff beyond this season:

“Coach D’Antoni is one of the best all-time coaches, in my opinion. To me, he’s like one of those players in the past that hadn’t quite won the title yet. I’m hoping this is the year for him. He’s one of the all-time great innovators and a great partner. I’d love for it to keep going. It takes two to tango, but we’re going to figure that out in the offseason.”

On how he’d respond to criticism of moves that appeared designed to cut costs and avoid the tax:

“Judge us by results on the floor. I honestly don’t get the focus on what owners around the league are spending. Pretty much every owner is spending … right around the luxury tax line. That’s where we’ve been literally my whole career. Nothing’s changed. That’s how every team operates.”

Western Notes: Conley, Turner, Howard, Suns

After a long, successful run with the Grizzlies, Mike Conley was viewed heading into this season as the player who was going to help turn the Jazz from a solid playoff team into a bona fide contender. However, it has been an up-and-down first season in Utah for Conley, who is averaging just 13.5 PPG on 39.8% shooting.

Speaking to Tony Jones of The Athletic, Conley admitted he hasn’t been able to entirely block out the criticism he has faced this season, and that he understands that criticism.

“Nobody is more frustrated than me,” Conley said. “Not the fans, not the media, not my teammates. I’m not a guy who runs from looking in the mirror. But, at this point, I have to control what I can control. I have to stay locked in. I have to focus on what I can handle. I know what’s being said. But in a big way, it’s not in my control what people may think.”

As Conley gears up for the home stretch and looks to become a consistent, reliable contributor for the Jazz, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Western Conference…

  • The Timberwolves and Evan Turner “came close” to reaching a buyout agreement by Sunday night, but couldn’t finalize a deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North. According to Wolfson, Turner would still like to play this season, but that seems unlikely to happen with the Wolves, who are prioritizing the players they expect to be longer-term pieces.
  • Discussing Dwight Howard‘s initial stint with the Lakers, team owner Jeanie Buss singled out former Lakers – and current Rockets – head coach Mike D’Antoni as a reason why the veteran center didn’t succeed and chose to leave in free agency. “We hired a coach that didn’t respect his game and wasn’t going to put him in a position to succeed,” Buss said (video link via The Los Angeles Times).
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic examines how Jordan McRae could fit with the Suns this season and potentially beyond. Phoenix reportedly intends to place a waiver claim on McRae, but there’s a possibility Detroit will do so as well, and the Pistons would have the higher priority.
  • NBA fans interested in the league’s salary cap minutiae will enjoy Jeff Siegel’s latest article at Early Bird Rights, which details the unusual case of the Kings‘ buyout agreement with Anthony Tolliver and explains why it could indirectly cost the Trail Blazers a little money.

And-Ones: Giannis, Motiejunas, Nogueira, Bosh

Following a wild 2019 offseason, the NBA has been in a period of relative stability for the last several months. However, there are a number of tipping points on tap for the 2020 postseason and offseason that could re-inject some chaos into the basketball landscape, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.

According to Bontemps, people around the league will be keeping an especially close eye on teams like the Rockets and Sixers, who will be looking to make deep playoff runs after falling short of their goals in recent years. If those two teams are eliminated early in the postseason, it’s possible major changes could be made, with Mike D’Antoni and Brett Brown potentially on the way out and roster shakeups around the corner.

League insiders will also be curious to see whether the Warriors look to use their 2020 lottery pick as the centerpiece in a trade for another impact player, Bontemps writes. Most notably, all eyes will be on Milwaukee as Giannis Antetokounmpo decides whether to sign a super-max extension with the Bucks. For what it’s worth, Bontemps says every executive he spoke to expects Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA forward Donatas Motiejunas said he has drawn interest from some NBA and EuroLeague teams, per Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). However, Motiejunas remains under contract with the Shanghai Sharks during the Chinese Basketball Association’s coronovirus-related hiatus and isn’t looking to get out of that deal.
  • Lucas Nogueira, a former first-round pick who spent four seasons in the NBA with the Raptors, has signed with Muharraq Club in Bahrain, according to the team (Instagram link; hat tip to Sportando). The 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Nogueira appeared in 141 games for Toronto between 2014-18.
  • Chris Bosh took to Instagram to express his disappointment after not being included in 2020’s list of finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Coaching Rumors: D’Antoni, Gentry, Boylen, Spurs

The Rockets are off to a reasonably strong start this season, with their 15-7 record good for fourth in the Western Conference. However, Houston’s play hasn’t necessarily made Mike D’Antoni‘s position as head coach any more secure.

According to John Hollinger and Sam Amick of The Athletic, a source with direct knowledge of the Rockets’ situation expressed “serious skepticism” that D’Antoni will still be the head coach in Houston beyond this season. In the view of that source, any result short of a Rockets championship this season probably means the odds are “slim” that D’Antoni returns in 2020/21.

While it seems unlikely that the Rockets would make an in-season coaching change unless things really go south, a few teams around the NBA may look ahead to next spring and consider the possibility of pursuing D’Antoni should he become available, according to Hollinger and Amick.

Here are a few more head coaching notes and rumors from The Athletic’s duo:

  • A number of factors are working in Alvin Gentry‘s favor when it comes to his job security. The Pelicans haven’t been healthy, head of basketball operations David Griffin has a history with Gentry, and team owner Gayle Benson also thinks highly of New Orleans’ head coach. Plus, Gentry is under contract for the 2020/21 season, and his salary for next year is believed to be worth $5MM+, a source tells Hollinger and Amick.
  • League sources tell The Athletic that Bulls head of basketball operations John Paxson continues to be a fan of Jim Boylen and his “tough-love approach.” However, Boylen’s defensive scheme has drawn some criticism and Chicago has the league’s 29th-ranked offense. According to Hollinger and Amick, Boylen also remains unpopular in the Bulls’ locker room. The Athletic duo wonders if an organizational overhaul that affects both Boylen and the front office could be in the cards next year if the team’s struggles continue.
  • League sources continue to speculate that Kansas head coach Bill Self could be a potential successor for Gregg Popovich when the Spurs‘ longtime head coach opts to retire, per Hollinger and Amick. Self has been close friends with San Antonio executive R.C. Buford since they attended college together at Oklahoma State.

Rockets Notes: Morey, Offseason, D’Antoni

The Rockets have certainly not been bereft of drama, on or off the hardwood. After subtracting Chris Paul and adding Russell Westbrook this summer to be James Harden‘s new backcourt mate, Houston has struggled. The club is currently 4-3, the eighth seed in a loaded Western Conference.

As Houston prepares for a Wednesday home bout against a Warriors team missing as many as five starters, let’s take a look at more Rockets notes:

  • Following a lopsided 129-100 defeat to the 5-1 Heat, the job security of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has been questioned, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. “This is gonna stick with the FO (front office) for a while,” one coach texted Deveney during Sunday’s blowout. D’Antoni’s current contract with the Rockets expires at the end of the season.
  • Despite the Rockets’ rocky 4-3 start to the regular season, including that forgettable showing on Sunday, GM Daryl Morey considers the ceiling for the new-look Rockets to be extremely high, according to a conversation with The Athletic Houston’s Kelly Iko. “I really think we could be the best offense ever put on the floor,” Morey said. “Now we’ll see if we can back that up, but our transition has been really good. Obviously, last year, we were one of the best halfcourt teams ever. There have been times where we’ve combined those two things and looked really good. Sometimes our transition has fallen off, sometimes our half-court (offense). But if we pull it together like I think we can, I think we’ll be the best offense in the league and a top-10 defense. That’ll be a formula to win the title.”
  • In the same interview, Morey acknowledges a desire to improve the team’s defense. The team is currently ranked 28th in defensive efficiency, according to NBA.com“We’re going to be a good defensive team. Obviously there’s been, you know, some things that don’t look good so far. But I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be one of the top-10 defensive teams by the end of the year… To be a championship-caliber team, you gotta be a top-10 defense.”
  • Notably, Morey’s new Q&A with Iko doesn’t touch on the controversy stemming from the GM’s summer tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests against mainland China. That message prompted China to suspend all business ties with the Rockets. Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports thinks Morey needs to address what became the big story of the NBA preseason, as he notes in a recent opinion column.

Mike D’Antoni Unfazed By Lame-Duck Status

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t see his lame duck status as an issue, Mark Medina of USA Today reports.

D’Antoni and his agent were unable to reach an extension agreement with the Rockets after last season. He’s making $4.5MM in the final year of his contract.

With the James HardenRussell Westbrook combination, Houston believes it can make a run to the championship after getting eliminated the past two postseason by the Warriors.

“I got a great group of guys that I don’t think care. They won’t be affected by it,” D’Antoni told Medina. “I won’t be affected by it. So it’s a non-issue.”

D’Antoni hinted that he doesn’t see his contract situation changing during the season. The front office and owner Tilman Fertitta have downplayed concerns about D’Antoni coaching this season without long-term security with the franchise.

“It’s not going to change the way I coach or how I feel trying to compete,” D’Antoni said. “So then we’ll see next summer with what happens.”

D’Antoni hasn’t seen any signs of players tuning him out or treating him any differently due to his contract status.

“Every situation is different. If I had guys looking for outs or not listening to me or if we had problems, it could be a problem,” D’Antoni said. “But if you have a great group, which I have luckily, and they want to only win? We have a great relationship and we’re doing this all together.”