Mike D'Antoni

Sixers Rumors: D’Antoni, Brand, Roster, Harden

The Sixers‘ head coaching search is believed to be down to two candidates, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who says that Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue are finalists for the job. Pompey, who previously reported that D’Antoni appeared to be the frontrunner, continues to hear buzz linking the former Rockets coach to the job and suggests that he’s the preferred choice of team ownership.

According to Pompey, some league sources are wondering how much autonomy GM Elton Brand has in the 76ers’ coaching search. Although Brand has taken much of the criticism for questionable roster moves and draft picks during the last couple years, most of those were collaborative decisions, with executive VP of basketball operations Alex Rucker among those who was “heavily involved behind the scenes,” writes Pompey.

There was a belief that the Sixers were moving away from that collaborative approach, with Brand empowered to lead the coaching search and ownership set to simply approve or deny his recommendation, but Pompey’s sources suggest it’s not clear whether that has been the case so far.

Here’s more on the 76ers:

  • Brand met with Sixers ownership on Monday to discuss a new contract and is believed to be seeking a three- or four-year deal, sources tell Pompey. While there has been speculation that Philadelphia might look to hire a president of basketball operations above Brand, the latest intel from Shams Charania this week suggested that the club is only looking to fortify its front office under the GM, with Brand remaining in charge.
  • Keith Smith of RealGM (Twitter link) is starting to hear buzz that the 76ers are letting teams know they’d be more open to trade talks if they hire D’Antoni, since they recognize their personnel isn’t necessarily conducive to his preferred style of play.
  • John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link) has heard that one of the reasons the Sixers are interested in D’Antoni is a feeling that he could potentially help lure Rockets star James Harden to Philadelphia. I’d imagine the club views that possibility as more of an added bonus than a key selling point for D’Antoni’s candidacy, but it’s worth noting that Harden can reach free agency as early as 2022.

Coaching Rumors: Donovan, Billups, Bjorkgren, Walton

Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made a personal connection with Billy Donovan that helped him land his new coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this morning on “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” (video link). After Donovan left the Thunder two weeks ago, Karnisovas wanted to set up a meeting right away, according to Woj. The Bulls executive flew to Donovan’s Florida home a few days later and was able to sell him on the job.

Wojnarowski notes that Chicago has a recent history of taking chances on college coaches and veteran assistants, but has rarely hired someone with previous NBA head coaching experience. He adds that the Bulls have the talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East and Donovan could turn them into a desirable market for free agents.

Donovan said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding job in OKC, but Wojnarowski believes that will be less of a concern in Chicago. He said the Thunder are “cycling down” with a lot of veteran players and draft picks and may bottom out for a while before becoming good again. The Bulls have “players on the uptick” and could become contenders with the right coach.

There’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel:

  • Wojnarowski passed along a few other rumors today (video link). The Sixers are ready to start bringing in coaching candidates and have already started conversations with Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue. Chauncey Billups is a name to watch for the Pacers, who have shown a willingness to hire former players with no coaching experience and surround them with a veteran staff. The Pelicans have been doing a “ton of background” and haven’t started formal interviews yet. The Rockets like interviewing a lot of people whenever they have an opening and will consider various combinations of head coaches and lead assistants. Woj expects the interview process to be lengthy in both Houston and Oklahoma City.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Sirius XM Radio that assistant Nate Bjorkgren has interviewed for the opening with the Pacers (Twitter link).
  • The Kings‘ front office shakeup shouldn’t affect the job security of coach Luke Walton, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on a recent HoopsHype podcast. Amick believes new head of basketball operations Monte McNair was told before he was hired that the organization is “pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke.”

D’Antoni, Donovan, Lue Believed To Be On Sixers’ Short List

The Sixers, led by general manager Elton Brand, have met with a handful of top candidates for their head coaching job and are expected to bring a short list of candidates to the Philadelphia area within the next 10 days for a second round of interviews, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Charania, Mike D’Antoni, Billy Donovan, and Tyronn Lue are expected to be on the 76ers’ short list and are “strongly vying” for the position.

The Sixers have been linked to several other potential candidates – including Dave Joerger, Darvin Ham, and Mike Brown – as they seek a replacement for Brett Brown. However, Lue was considered an early frontrunner for the position and D’Antoni and Donovan emerged as viable alternatives after they parted ways with their respective teams. It seems increasingly likely that Philadelphia’s next head coach will come from that trio.

Meanwhile, although a recent report suggested that the Sixers may be considering hiring a president of basketball operations to lead their front office, Charania says the organization remains committed to adding talent under Brand to “further strengthen the front office.” Brand, who is leading the head coaching search, continues to be the head of basketball operations in Philadelphia, according to Charania, who adds that the GM is well-respected by agents and executives around the NBA.

Sixers Expected To Interview D’Antoni, Donovan

The Sixers are expected to conduct interviews this week with Mike D’Antoni and Billy Donovan for their head coaching job, reports Jason Dumas of KRON4 News (Twitter link).

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer confirms that D’Antoni is set to interview with Philadelphia in the coming days, though he cautioned that – as of Tuesday – exact dates for D’Antoni’s meeting and others had yet to be finalized.

While one source who spoke to Pompey indicated that the 76ers’ job may be D’Antoni’s to lose, a team source tells The Inquirer that ownership won’t make any final decisions on which candidate it wants until interviews have been completed.

D’Antoni has also been linked to the Pacers’ head coaching vacancy, among others, so it’s possible that he and the Sixers are using one another for leverage — D’Antoni to create a bidding war for his services and the 76ers to lower the asking price of Tyronn Lue or another candidate. However, Pompey writes that Philadelphia’s interest in D’Antoni appears to be real.

It’s unclear if Philadelphia has a specific timeline in mind to finalize a hire, but with Lue’s Clippers no longer alive in the postseason, there should be few obstacles standing in the way of the Sixers interviewing any of the candidates reported to be on their list.

Mike D’Antoni Won’t Return To Rockets

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has informed team ownership that he intends to become a coaching free agent and won’t return to Houston next season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

D’Antoni had been on an expiring contract, having turned down extension offers from the Rockets prior to the season.

General manager Daryl Morey had said after Houston’s Game 1 win over the Lakers in the second round that the team wanted to retain D’Antoni. However, there was always a sense that the two sides may not continue their relationship, especially since Houston’s preseason extension offers were short-term and included incentives. That sense only increased after the Rockets lost four straight games to the Lakers and were eliminated from the postseason.

D’Antoni, who joined the Rockets in 2016, led the organization to a 217-101 (.682) record over four seasons and won at least one playoff series in each of those four years, earning Coach of the Year honors in 2017.

Despite championship aspirations during that time, the club never got over the hump and reached the NBA Finals, having been eliminated twice by the Warriors, once by the Spurs, and now once by the Lakers.

Having confirmed his departure from Houston in a statement (link via Woj), D’Antoni is now expected to be among the candidates considered by the Sixers as they seek a new head coach, per ESPN. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweets that there have been rumblings for weeks that D’Antoni may be headed to the Pelicans, though an earlier report suggested those rumors may be overstated. He has also been linked to the Pacers.

The Rockets, meanwhile, are likely to take a close look at Tyronn Lue as they weigh potential replacements for D’Antoni, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rockets Notes: D’Antoni, Morey, House, Gordon

Mike D’Antoni wants to continue coaching, but his time in Houston may be over, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. D’Antoni, 69, is now a free agent on the coaching market after his Rockets were ousted from the playoffs Saturday night. He hasn’t ruled out staying with his current team, but was unable to reach an extension last summer, leading to a public battle with management.

Sources tell Amick that there’s interest in D’Antoni from the Pacers, who recently fired Nate McMillan. However, Indiana is looking at other candidates as well, and D’Antoni’s hiring wouldn’t be a sure thing. There have also been rumors that he might be headed to New Orleans and a reunion with VP of basketball operations David Griffin, whom he once worked with in Phoenix, but Amick hears that D’Antoni isn’t a serious contender for the Pelicans job.

D’Antoni has been successful in his four years with the Rockets, posting a 217-101 record and leading the team to at least the second round of the playoffs each season. But Amick adds that hard feelings remain from last year’s failed talks involving D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, and owner Tilman Fertitta, general manager Daryl Morey and CEO Tad Brown.

Amick notes that ABC/ESPN analyst and former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy is considered a candidate if the job opens up again. Tim MacMahon of ESPN also mentions Van Gundy, along with ex-Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, who has a championship on his resume with the Rockets’ G League affiliate in Rio Grande.

There’s more Rockets news this morning:

  • Morey’s job remains safe, despite the playoff ouster and an early-season tweet that cost the organization millions in sponsorship deals and damaged the NBA’s relationship with China, high-ranking Rockets sources tell MacMahon. Morey reportedly plans to continue the small-ball experiment next season as he believes it’s the best way to maximize the talents of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
  • Rockets players haven’t said much publicly about the Danuel House incident since he was forced to leave the Disney World campus following an alleged violation of league rules, but Harden called it a “distraction” in a post-game interview. (video link from Ben DuBose of USA Today’s The Rockets Wire). “Very, very disappointing. It affected us,” Harden said. “Obviously, we still have to go out there and play a basketball game, and play a series. But it affected us. Obviously, it’s a distraction. He was a huge part of our rotation.”
  • Saturday’s loss means the final year of Eric Gordon‘s contract will remain non-guaranteed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The four-year extension Gordon signed in September includes a provision that guarantees his $20.9MM salary for 2023/24 if he makes an All-Star team or the Rockets win a championship.

Rockets Notes: Covington, House, D’Antoni

Rockets forward Robert Covington was checked for a concussion after a fourth-quarter collision with Lakers star Anthony Davis on Tuesday night, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. However, Covington passed the concussion protocol test and is expected to be available for Game 4 on Thursday, a source tells MacMahon.

Covington took an inadvertent Davis elbow to the face during the collision and was “bleeding pretty good,” as head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game, but he doesn’t have a broken nose, per MacMahon.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • The Rockets are uncertain about Danuel House‘s status for Game 4, but are hoping he’ll be available, a source tells MacMahon (Twitter link). House, who would provide added depth in Houston’s frontcourt, missed Game 3 on Tuesday for personal reasons.
  • Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recently told USA Today that locking up head coach Mike D’Antoni to a new contract this offseason will be a top priority for the club. A source close to D’Antoni tells Jared Greenberg of TNT (video link) that the veteran coach is pleased Morey feels that way, but that it will be up to D’Antoni to decide whether or not he returns. While it still appears very possible that D’Antoni could be coaching the Rockets in 2020/21, it will be interesting to see if the two sides follow the lead of Billy Donovan and the Thunder and end up mutually agreeing to part ways after the season.
  • In case you missed it, Rockets assistant GM Monte McNair is one of six candidates reportedly being considered by the Kings for their head of basketball operations opening.

Daryl Morey: Rockets Hope To Keep Mike D’Antoni

Even though rumors of a split have been circulating for more than a year, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told Mark Medina of USA Today the team will prioritize a new deal with coach Mike D’Antoni.

“It’s probably No. 1. That’s a fair way to put it,” Morey said. “We have all our key players signed. I think Mike coming back is super important.”

D’Antoni is in the final year of his contract and his departure seemed inevitable after the organization was unable to get him to agree to a new contract last summer. Owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly insisted on a one-year deal, which didn’t interest D’Antoni.

Morey dismissed the idea of an impending coaching change as “a media creation,” adding that “it’s convenient for agents to focus on it.” There is already speculation that other organizations would be interested in D’Antoni if he doesn’t return to Houston, specifically the Pelicans, whose head of basketball operations David Griffin worked with D’Antoni in Phoenix, and the Pacers, who fired Nate McMillan this week.

D’Antoni is in his fourth year with the Rockets and has led them to a 217-101 record with at least one playoff series win each season. His fate might have been sealed if Houston had lost Game 7 to the Thunder, but they now hold a 1-0 lead over the top-seeded Lakers and the organization and players are expressing confidence in their coach.

“Mike is a guy that gets along with everybody, and it’s all up for the players to hone in and do what we need to do,” Eric Gordon said. “He gives us the opportunity. He’s a great communicator. So he gives us a lot of options that we feel like we need to do.”

Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate McMillan

The Pacers have relieved Nate McMillan of his head coaching duties, the team announced today in a press release.

“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction. Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland).”

The move comes as a surprise, since the Pacers just signed McMillan to a one-year contract extension earlier this month. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says (via Twitter) that “soft” extension involved a reworking of McMillan’s deal for 2020/21, with a team option added for ’21/22, so it sounds like Indiana didn’t cost itself much money by changing course just two weeks later.

McMillan, 56, guided the Pacers to a 183-136 (.574) record over the last four seasons, earning four consecutive playoff berths during that stretch. Indiana’s 45-28 (.616) mark this season represented the club’s highest winning percentage since 2013/14.

McMillan, who is well-respected around the NBA, had generally been lauded in recent years for maximizing the Pacers’ roster despite losing star forward Paul George – who requested a trade in 2017 – and dealing with a handful of major injuries, including the torn quad tendon that sidelined Victor Oladipo for a full year. The team’s quick playoff exit this season at the hands of the Heat came without injured starters Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb available.

However, that loss to the Heat represented Indiana’s fourth consecutive first-round exit, and there had been some chatter about a need to modernize the team’s offense, which ranked last in the NBA this season in three-point attempts per game (28.0). In an unusual move, the Pacers mentioned McMillan’s 3-16 postseason record in their announcement on his dismissal today, a signal that his lack of playoff success was a major factor in the club’s decision.

ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe noted on a podcast earlier this month that there had been speculation around the league in recent months about McMillan being on the hot seat in Indiana.

The Pacers will begin their search for a new head coach immediately, according to today’s announcement. They’ll be vying with the Nets, Sixers, Bulls, and Pelicans for the top candidates on the market, becoming the sixth team to launch a coaching search in 2020 (the Knicks are the only club to have completed the process so far).

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), current Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will become an Indiana target if Houston decides to make a coaching change of its own. The Pacers will also explore a pool of candidates they’d consider “program builders,” sources tell Woj (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Rumors: Gentry, Ingram, Ball, Zion

With the Pelicans‘ 2019/20 season set to come to an end following Thursday’s seeding game against the Magic, the next big question the team must answer revolves around Alvin Gentry‘s future. The veteran head coach has now made the postseason just once in five years since arriving in New Orleans.

While the Pelicans have had to deal with some injuries over the course of those five years, the team had loftier expectations, especially considering Anthony Davis was on the roster for those first four years. Additionally, New Orleans appeared to be in prime position to compete for the final playoff spot in the West this summer, but has played underwhelming basketball during the restart, losing five of its seven games, including two to Sacramento.

Within a discussion about the Pelicans’ offseason, Sam Amick of The Athletic says he’d be “very surprised” if Gentry is back for the 2020/21 season, suggesting there are strong signs that head of basketball operations David Griffin would like to make a change. In Amick’s view, Tyronn Lue and even Mike D’Antoni could be candidates worth keeping an eye on if New Orleans decides to move on from Gentry.

Still, Amick and fellow Athletic reporter David Aldridge caution that finances could play a part in the Pelicans’ decision. Gentry is owed more than $5MM for the 2020/21 season, the final year of his current deal. Team ownership may be reluctant to pay off that contract and pay a new head coach next season, given the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had.

Here’s more on Gentry and the Pelicans:

  • In an opinion column for NOLA.com, Scott Kushner makes the case for why the Pelicans should move on from Gentry, writing that the team’s “lethargic, uninspired” play during the restart served as “irrefutable evidence” that a new voice is needed.
  • Checking in on the Brandon Ingram situation in New Orleans, Shams Charania of The Athletic says that re-signing the young forward remains the plan for the Pelicans, who have remained in touch with agent Jeff Schwartz all season. Ingram is viewed as a likely maximum-salary player, Charania adds.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic has heard from sources at the NBA’s campus in Orlando that they expect “significant roster adjustments” for the Pelicans this offseason. Aldridge also hears that Lonzo Ball “looked like he’d checked out” during the restart.
  • Asked today about his offseason plans, Zion Williamson said he intends to work on his game and to “get his body where it needs to be,” tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Williamson didn’t offer additional specifics on where his body needs to be, indicating he needs to talk to the team about that.