Monty Williams

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.

Lakers, Tyronn Lue Reach Impasse

The Lakers are at “an impasse” in negotiations with Tyronn Lue to be their next head coach, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Talks have stalled without an agreement for Lue to take over the team, even though he has been widely expected to get the job.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that negotiations have focused on contract specifics and the makeup of Lue’s coaching staff. The Lakers want him to add former Nets and Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, who made a “strong impression” when he interviewed for the job and has shown an ability to develop young players.

The idea of having experienced assistants have always been important to Lakers management, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link), who adds that it was part of the reason there was friction with former head coach Luke Walton. A report yesterday said that Lue reached out to Tom Thibodeau about being his top assistant, but that pairing is considered unlikely to happen, even if Lue does get the job.

It’s not clear if Kidd is interested in taking on that role either, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. Kidd moved straight into a head coaching role after his playing days were over and has never worked as an NBA assistant.

In addition to Lue and Kidd, Lakers management also met with new Suns coach Monty Williams and Heat assistant Juwan Howard in their coaching search. L.A. never made Williams a contract offer before he signed with Phoenix, and there was “no concrete sense” that the team planned to, sources tell Charania.

Lue seems like a natural candidate for the Lakers because of his connection to LeBron James from their days in Cleveland, which included a championship and three straight NBA Finals appearances. However, Charania reports that James has told the front office he doesn’t want to be part of the coaching search and reportedly declined a request to speak to Williams about the job.

James intends his decision to be a sign of faith in management, Charania adds, and he is still committed to trying to get the team back into title contention. The Lakers are expected to be active on the free agent market, and the coaching decision will be among several factors that determines their success.

Pacific Notes: James, Durant, Morant, Ball

It’s in the best interest of the Lakers to give LeBron James input on all decisions, Frank Isola of The Athletic opines. While the Lakers don’t normally take that approach with a star player, no one running the club has proven they can build a winner, Isola notes. When they signed James last summer, they knew they had to let his voice be heard, Isola continues. The expected hiring of his former head coach in Cleveland, Tyronn Lue, is an example of James’ already exhibiting his influence, Isola adds.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Kevin Durant‘s praise of Monty Williams has led to speculation that the Warriors star might consider the Suns in free agency, Jeremy Cluff of Arizona Republic writes. While Cluff acknowledges that scenario is unlikely, Durant gushed about Williams’ character and coaching ability. “He’s a leader and a teacher,” Durant recently told the media. “I’m excited he’s back into coaching and walking those sidelines again. … Especially when you’re talking to him on the basketball court, you have a group of guys that will get better.” Williams was an assistant with the Thunder during the 2015/16 season when Durant played there.
  • Numerous draft pundits and NBA analysts believe Ja Morant would be a perfect fit for the Suns, Cluff relays in a separate story. The Murray State point guard is expected to be a top-three selection and Phoenix has an obvious need for a floor leader.
  • Lonzo Ball said that former business manager and Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster took advantage of his mother’s illness for financial gain, Arthur Weinstein of Sports Illustrated relays. Ball said on James’ TV show ‘The Shop’ that Foster took over the family’s finances after Tina Ball suffered a stroke two years ago. Ball sued Foster last month for more than $2MM in damages, claiming that Foster embezzled $1.5MM from his personal and business accounts.

Pacific Notes: Williams, Johnson, Lue, Lakers, Clippers

The Suns made their final decision by hiring Monty Williams last week, but many new challenges await the veteran NBA coach, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

Williams, who will stay with the Sixers throughout their playoff run as an assistant, is inheriting a young roster with multiple lottery picks and a great deal of cap space to work with in free agency this summer. Among the greatest challenges with this franchise, however, remains Suns owner Robert Sarver.

In meeting with Williams and Suns general manage James Jones, Sarver promised to give Williams space and create a healthy culture within the franchise, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, this isn’t the first time Sarver has made this declaration.

“I’ve been blessed to coach alongside and play for some of the beast coaches in the NBA, and consider it a privilege to once again be a head coach with an excellent organization like the Suns,” Willams said as part of a larger statement about joining Phoenix. “It is a tremendous opportunity with a talented group of players and a loyal fan base. I will be very excited to get to the valley, connect with our team and get to work.” 

Having an experienced roster, lack of talent in the Western Conference and the threat of Sarver interfering could cause challenges for Williams, but many around the NBA have expressed confidence in his ability to turn around the Suns.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns guard Tyler Johnson had his 2018/19 season review published on NBA.com last week, outlining his final stats, highlights and more. Johnson was acquired by Phoenix from Miami before February’s trade deadline, being thrown into the young, hungry group more than halfway into the season.“It definitely pushed my comfort zone,” Johnson said. “It’s not something I was used to as far as being vocal. In past years, I had always been with somebody who led by example and come in and be professional and make sure I was getting my work done. Now, I’m worried about other guys and making sure they’re on top of their stuff as well. It definitely opened up by mind to a whole new set of possibilities.”
  • The Lakers would theoretically give LeBron James the keys by hiring Tyronn Lue as head coach, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. James won his third NBA championship playing under Lue with the Cavaliers in 2016, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Warriors. The two share a close relationship and have great admiration for one another, a big reason why the Lakers could look to finalize a deal with Lue as early as this week.
  • This summer’s free agency period will largely determine the futures of the Clippers and Lakers for years to come, Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes. Both franchises could pursue the top players available on the open market, including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving.