Monty Williams

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Big Changes Coming In Sacramento?

Vivek Ranadive and other members of the Kings‘ ownership have grown increasingly frustrated with the team’s poor performance, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Ranadive has been open about his disappointment through text messages in season-long group chats with general manager Vlade Divac, head coach Luke Walton, assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic and chief operating officer Matina Kolokotronis.

The specter that has hung over the franchise for the past two seasons has been the decision to bypass Luka Doncic and take Marvin Bagley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. Doncic has developed into an MVP candidate, while injuries have limited Bagley to 13 games this year and may wipe out the rest of his season.

The Kings put a lot of effort into scouting Doncic, Charania relays, including a dinner with Ranadive that one of the owner’s children posted on social media. Ownership supported taking Doncic, but Divac and former assistant GM Brandon Williams were concerned about how he would fit alongside De’Aaron Fox and believed adding a big man was a better choice.

Sources tell Charania that significant changes aren’t being planned to the front office or coaching staff right now, but Ranadive will reassess the situation this summer. He declined to be interviewed, but the team issued a statement that read, “We share our fans’ frustrations with how the season has unfolded and are working hard to improve. We remain confident in Vlade’s leadership in building the winning team that our fans and city deserve.”

Charania shares more from inside the Kings’ organization:

  • Divac will be held accountable for the team’s free agent signings last summer and other roster decisions. Dewayne Dedmon was a huge disappointment after being given a three-year, $40MM contract and was traded to Atlanta last week. Trevor Ariza was also traded, while Cory Joseph has been effective as a backup point guard and Richaun Holmes was a nice find before being injured.
  • It was Divac’s decision to fire Dave Joerger and target Walton as his replacement, giving him a contract that runs through the 2022/23 season, just like Divac’s. Several members of the ownership group have been critical of Walton, and sources say that Ranadive’s group chats are a way to air those issues. The organization considered Monty Williams and Ettore Messina as other coaching candidates, but only if Walton turned down the job.
  • A decision could be coming this summer on Buddy Hield, who received a four-year extension in October, but lost his starting job last month. Hield called out “trust issues” in the organization a few weeks ago, and there is a belief that he may ask for a trade if he remains unhappy with his role, a source tells Charania. Hield thinks he should be a starter and has been a frequent critic of Walton’s decisions.

Suns Notes: Williams, Jones, Oubre, Ayton

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated spoke with Suns GM James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams in a look at the league’s youngest team, owners of a surprisingly competent 11-16 record this season. Phoenix is currently one game behind the Kings for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Williams addressed the tactical changes he has made since his last head coaching position with the Anthony Davis-fronted Pelicans.

“In New Orleans, I made it about me a lot of times. I was a young coach,” Williams allows. “And there was a bit of pride there that got in the way and I had to address that. I don’t want to go that route anymore… We want everybody to feel so excited and good about what we’re trying to do.”

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • In the same conversation with Spears, Jones (who won three titles as a bench shooter for the Heat and Cavaliers) asserts that he wants to make a long-term cultural shift in Phoenix, from perennial loser to perennial title contender. “I’m so deeply focused on the process because I know there’s a process that you have to undertake to become a champion,” Jones tells Spears.
  • Kelly Oubre was unsure whether or not he would be leaving the Wizards for the Suns last season after the infamous “Brooks trade” involving Phoenix, Washington and Memphis fell apart. Then, the Suns and Wizards cut out the Grizzlies completely and proceeded to move Oubre to Phoenix. “[At] the end of the day, I want to be great,” Oubre told The Athletic’s Gina Mizell. “I want to… help this organization grow.” The team now cannot picture its rebuild without the 24 year-old small forward, who has emerged as a permanent starter.
  • Suns center Deandre Ayton double-doubled in his first game back from a 25-game drug suspension. Ayton scored 18 points and pulling down 12 rebounds in a 120-99 loss to the Clippers Tuesday. In postgame comments logged by ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, Ayton calls testing positive for a diuretic “the biggest mistake and unintentional mistake that happened in my life.” As Youngmisuk writes, Ayton said that he did not appeal the NBA’s suspension because he did not want to be a distraction to his team.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Joseph

With the Suns playing above expectations to start the season, the development of Devin Booker has been a focal point of the team’s season. A recent three-game skid has put Phoenix two games under .500 but Booker’s play has been generally solid this season.

The 23-year-old is averaging 24.5 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting from the field (51%) and from three (41.9%) at career-best rates. As the season has progressed, new head coach Monty Williams has taken a proactive approach in trying to get his young star to the next level, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

Whether it’s late-night text sessions, extra work after practice or going over film and studying, Williams has been impressed with the work Booker has dedicated to improvement. While Williams feels he drives Booker nuts, the guard says he’s thankful for his new head coach.

“I understand most of it, I mean, all of it,” Booker said. “It’s just the way I am. I’ve said since the beginning, I trust him.”

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Deandre Ayton is nearing a return from his 25-game suspension and the young center’s role is still unclear, Rankin writes in a separate story. The Suns’ big man has appeared in just one game this season but given Phoenix’s recent struggles, some scoring punch from the 21-year-old could help the team.
  • Mavericks‘ guard Luka Doncic has started off his sophomore season with a bang, becoming a daily triple-double threat and an early MVP candidate. Rankin writes once again how Doncic’s development makes Suns fans think about how different things would have been if Phoenix took Doncic in lieu of Ayton in last year’s draft.
  • Kings‘ forward Marvin Bagley III has only played in one game this season after breaking his thumb. Five weeks after the injury, Bagley is still not cleared to return but is getting closer, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. “Marvin is much closer than De’Aaron [Fox] is, but it’s one of those things that he hasn’t been cleared to go contact yet without (a brace) on,” head coach Luke Walton said. “So will he play tomorrow or Monday? No, but is he getting closer? Yes.”
  • While the personal stats may not be outstanding, the play of Cory Joseph, given the absence of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox has helped the Kings maintain pace in the Western Conference, James Patrick of the Sacramento Bee writes.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic answered several Clippers questions in the latest mailbag. Buha covered the possibility of the team pursuing Andre Iguodala, Landry Shamet‘s return, and more.

Monty Williams Says Lakers Never Made Offer, Calls Organization “Gracious”

After a year on the Sixers‘ bench assisting Brett Brown, Monty Williams went into the offseason as a highly coveted coaching candidate and had meetings with the Suns and Lakers. While the Lakers reportedly had Williams near the top of their wish list, Phoenix ended up hiring him, and the Suns’ coach said that Los Angeles never officially made him an offer, as Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Time relays.

“They didn’t make me an offer, Mr. Sarver [Robert Sarver, the Suns’ owner] made me an offer, so it wasn’t part of my thinking,” Williams said. “I had conversations with the Lakers, they were really gracious. I was humbled to sit down with [Lakers owner] Jeanie Buss and that whole crew but it never came down to that. The Suns offered me a great opportunity and I took it.”

Williams joined Phoenix on a five-year contract and early returns have been promising. The Suns are off to their best start in the Devin Booker era and Anthony Davis, who played under Williams when he was the coach of the Pelicans, was among the few to see this coming.

“The league wasn’t as fast as it is now with the way things have changed,” Davis said. “He always wanted to play fast. He brought guys in who knew the game of basketball who were tough and physical and surrounded Devin Booker with a lot of guys that know how to play the game. So I expected nothing less from him coming in.”

The 2019 offseason won’t be remembered for the fierce battle (or lack thereof) for Williams’ services but it’s turning out to be among the major storylines early in the 2019/20 season. Phoenix has a 6-3 record heading into its matchup with Los Angeles.

“He wanted to be back on the front of the bench and be a head coach,” Davis continued. “He’s proving why he should be there.”

Suns Notes: Rubio, Oubre, Booker, Williams

Ricky Rubio swiftly asserted himself as the Suns’ team leader on the opening day of camp, Cody Cunningham of the team’s website reports. The Suns signed Rubio to a three-year, $51MM contract in July to solve their point guard woes.

“I usually lead by example, but I think I need to be a little bit more vocal here,” Rubio said. “There’s a lot of young guys and experience gives you something that you know when to talk, when not to talk. I’m trying to do that and be more vocal out on the court, but at the same time lead by example, too.”

We have more info on the Suns:

  • Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. missed the first day of practice due to hand discomfort, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays. It’s uncertain whether the injury was to Oubre’s left shooting hand, which was injured last season and required season-ending surgery.
  • Devin Booker took some heat for not playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer but injury concerns had a lot to do with it, Rankin writes in a separate story. “I think it’s obvious I’ve dealt with injuries, especially last year, dealing with three hamstring injuries and not wanting to go through that. Just focusing on this Suns team and getting where I want to go with this team is my main priority,” Booker said.
  • A positive interview with owner Robert Sarver sealed the deal for new coach Monty Williams, Gina Mizell of The Athletic reports. Multiple teams were interested in Williams, including the Lakers. Williams, a top assistant with Philadelphia last season, signed a five-year deal with rebuilding Phoenix and views it as his last opportunity to be an NBA head coach. “The conversation I had with Mr. Sarver kind of sealed it,” Williams said. “He was forthright, and I really respected that. He just didn’t lie. He didn’t, not one time, waver. And I was like, ‘You know what? I can work with that.’”

Pacific Notes: Henry, Suns, Landry, Buss

Pierria Henry, the most recent EuroCup regular season MVP winner, worked out for the Suns today, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports (Twitter link). Henry has plans to work out for at least two additional teams over the weekend.

The 6’5″ combo guard spent four years at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, becoming the school’s all-time leader in assist and steals. Henry didn’t hear his name called in the 2015 Draft and ended up carving out a career overseas. Henry has had stops in Georgia, Germany, Israel, Turkey, and Russia.

Henry is now a candidate for an NBA roster spot next season. As the West Virginia native attempts to make it in the league, let’s take a look at some notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Coach Monty Williams has finalized his staff, as he announced on the Suns‘ podcastWillie Green, Darko Rajakovic, Mark Bryant, Randy Ayers, Larry Greer, and Steve Blake will all serve as assistant coaches in Phoenix.
  • Landry Shamet has been invited to participate with the Select Team at Team USA’s National camp, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com tweets. The Clippers guard will join Zion Williamson in the younger group come August.
  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss admits that Magic Johnson’s resignation caught her off-guard, as Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register relays. Buss added that once the executive stepped down, she needed time to “figure out what the process was going to be.” Los Angeles decided that Rob Pelinka leading the front office would be best for the franchise.

Pacific Notes: Suns Staff, Walton, Bell, LeBron

A trio of assistants/scouts in other organizations could soon be joining Monty WilliamsSuns staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweetsSteve Blake (Trail Blazers), Randy Ayers (Nets) and Mark Bryant (Thunder) have emerged as top contenders to join Williams in Phoenix. Williams was hired by the Suns three weeks ago after spurning overtures from the Lakers.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Luke Walton was spotted by the media helping out with the Kings’ pre-draft workout on Thursday but he didn’t speak to the press, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. The new Kings head coach hasn’t faced the media since a lawsuit alleging that he sexually assaulted a former reporter was filed last month. The league and organization are jointly investigating the matter.
  • Jordan Bell, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, has made a positive impression in the postseason, as the team’s website notes. The Warriors forward received a start in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and averaged 6.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 2.0 APG in the series. “Jordan Bell is one of those guys who has got that energy,” veteran swingman Andre Iguodala said. “He thrives off the spotlight. He enjoys being in those moments and people are watching him.
  • People within LeBron James‘ inner circle expressed concern that the dysfunction within the Lakers organization could ruin the team’s summer even before Magic Johnson‘s public criticism of GM Rob Pelinka and the front office structure, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. The challenge of convincing at least one top free agent to join James was already seen as daunting around the league, and recent developments have make that uphill climb far worse, Amick adds.

Suns Notes: Collison, Conley, Davis, Williams

Darren Collison may be the most realistic solution to the Suns‘ point guard problem, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. An unrestricted free agent, Collison spent the past two seasons with the Pacers, averaging 11.9 points and 5.3 assists per game during his time there.

He pushes the ball up court quickly, runs the pick-and-roll well, and is an above average defender, all things Phoenix needs from that position, Rankin states. The Suns should have enough cap room to make an attractive offer to Collison, who earned $10MM this season, and they have a connection, as Collison played for new VP of basketball operations Jeff Bower during his rookie season in New Orleans.

Phoenix could also pursue a couple of high-priced point guards if it wants to take a win-now approach, Rankin notes. The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley is expected to return to the trade market now that his team is in position to draft Ja Morant, while the Rockets may be willing to part with Chris Paul to get out from under his salary commitment.

There’s more tonight from Phoenix:

  • The Suns could also try to get involved in the pursuit of Pelicans star Anthony Davis, Rankin adds in the same piece. He speculates they could offer Deandre Ayton and the No. 6 pick, along with T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Tyler Johnson to help match salaries. While Davis is no lock to re-sign in Phoenix, Rankin thinks it might be worth the risk to prove the organization is serious about winning and to give Davis a chance to develop a rapport with Devin Booker.
  • Monty Williams considered staying out of coaching to care for his family, but his children insisted he give it another try, relays Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports. At his introductory press conference Tuesday, the Suns’ new head coach explained what brought him back to the game after his wife’s tragic death in 2016. “My oldest daughter kind of read me the riot act one day about getting back into coaching,” Williams said. “And then I had a conversation with (Spurs GM) R.C. Buford one day … R.C. looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Your kids won’t be happy if you don’t get back into coaching.’ Those two episodes really pushed me back into the mode of doing what I do well.”
  • The reputation Phoenix has as a bad basketball city is an impediment to adding free agents, says Michelle Gardner of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix finished 27th in a recent “Best Cities for Basketball” survey and ranked next to last in attendance this season.

Monty Williams Turned Down Lakers’ Coaching Offer

Monty Williams, who will take over as the Suns’ new head coach when the Sixers’ playoff run ends, rejected an offer from the Lakers before accepting the job in Phoenix, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Tyronn Lue made headlines on Wednesday when he turned down the Lakers’ offer and pulled his name out of consideration, but this is the first time we’ve heard that Williams was also offered the job. Lue was upset that the offer only covered three years, which is the same contract length that Frank Vogel accepted and presumably is what was offered to Williams. He received a five-year commitment from the Suns.

Williams was among the first round of candidates to interview for the Lakers’ vacancy, along with Lue, Heat assistant Juwan Howard and newly hired Lakers assistant Jason Kidd. Several members of L.A.’s front office traveled to Philadelphia to meet with Williams on April 25, less than two weeks after firing Luke Walton.

Williams’ ability to receive two head coaching offers in his first season back on the sidelines speaks to his reputation around the league. He spent two years out of the NBA following his wife’s death before returning as an assistant with the Sixers.