Monty Williams

Pacific Notes: Looney, Lakers, Suns, Kings

When it comes to Warriors players facing free agency this summer, the focus has rightly been on Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, but those aren’t the only players on the roster with expiring contracts.

One key role player up for a new deal this offseason is Kevon Looney, who played regular minutes at center this season as DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones dealt with injuries. Now, his role has increased once again with Cousins expected to miss the rest of the playoffs, perhaps putting him in a position to boost his value as he nears free agency.

The Warriors hold Looney’s Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him. But if Thompson and Durant return, it’s not clear how high Golden State would be willing to go to retain a role player. Asked about Looney’s upcoming free agency, teammate Andre Iguodala acknowledged that a more lucrative payday may await the youngster elsewhere.

“I hope he gets paid,” Iguodala said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link). “So I hope he doesn’t come back because I hope he gets all the money.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams earlier this week to discuss the club’s head coaching vacancy, and there’s an expectation on both sides that a second visit will occur at some point, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Williams is one of three known candidates for the Lakers’ job, along with Tyronn Lue and Juwan Howard.
  • The Suns‘ approach to the offseason will hinge largely on where the team’s first-round pick lands in the lottery, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic explains. Mizell sketches out multiple potential paths for Phoenix’s offseason — one that involves Zion Williamson, one featuring Ja Morant, and one in which the Suns land outside the top two in the draft.
  • In a story published shortly after Dave Joerger was let go by the Kings, Jason Jones of The Athletic passes along some fascinating tidbits on Joerger’s tenure in Sacramento. According to Jones, Joerger never really seemed to connect with youngsters Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, favorites of the front office. Sources also told Jones that Joerger favored drafting Luka Doncic over Bagley, and would have been on board with trading Buddy Hield before the 2018/19 season.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Lue, Williams, Clippers, West

As we detailed earlier this week, Tyronn Lue‘s meeting with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka about the team’s head coaching vacancy is taking place today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

Lue has experience coaching LeBron James in Cleveland, which could be a point in his favor as Pelinka and the Lakers weigh their options for Luke Walton‘s replacement. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, coaching James isn’t without its challenges, but if a coach comes in with a game plan, holds LeBron accountable, and is prepared for push-back, he can succeed.

Lue and Monty Williams are among the candidates apparently in the running for the Lakers’ job, though both men have reportedly been warned to proceed with caution. As Colton Jones of Amico Hoops relays, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on 710 ESPN that “everyone in the league” has told Williams not to take the job, while Jorge Sedano of ESPN said one of Lue’s close friends has given the former Cavs coach a similar warning.

It remains to be seen which direction the Lakers are leaning, or whether they’ll expand their search beyond Lue, Williams, and Juwan Howard. However, Shelburne also notes that it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Williams prefers to remain with the Sixers, where he’s an assistant on Brett Brown‘s staff. His family is settled there, and he could be next in line if Philadelphia were to move on from Brown, says Shelburne (via Jones).

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s no indication that the Lakers plan to reach out to Clippers consultant Jerry West about the possibility of returning to the franchise following Magic Johnson‘s resignation from his president of basketball operations role. For his part, West said he’s preparing for an eventful offseason with the Clippers, but made no guarantees about his role next season and beyond. “Well, as far as I can tell, I really don’t have a future, OK? My future is now,” West told Amick. “I don’t really worry about that. I worry about getting through this season, and really concentrating – all of us, concentrating – on free agency.”
  • Although they fell back to earth last night, the fact that the Clippers made the postseason and are capable of performances like their Game 2 win over Golden State bodes well for the pitch they can make to free agents this summer, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times conveys a similar sentiment, writing that the club’s future is bright regardless of what happens in the playoffs.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a deep dive into the Lakers’ offseason, exploring the head coaching search, the possibility of revisiting Anthony Davis trade talks, the club’s free agency options, and more.

Stein’s Latest: Lakers, Sixers, Myers

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka appears to be gaining more power inside of the team’s front office, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his weekly newsletter. The former agent is reportedly running Los Angeles’ search for a new head coach.

It’s curious that the team is searching for a coach before settling on an official head of basketball operations. Many organizations set up their front office structures prior to hiring a coach.

Stein provides more on the situation and passes along some additional nuggets in this week’s edition of the newsletter. Here are the highlights from his piece:

  • There’s chatter within league circles that Sixers assistant coach Monty Williams’ candidacy for the Lakers‘ gig is as strong in part because some within the front office fear giving the job to Tyronn Lue would hand too much control to LeBron James. Williams met with Pelinka to discuss the position earlier today. Lue and Juwan Howard are among the other candidates rumored to be in contention for the position.
  • The Sixers attempted to pry Warriors team president Bob Myers away from Golden State last offseason before deciding to promote Elton Brand to the role, Stein reports. Philadelphia also attempted to bring Rockets GM Daryl Morey to its front office.
  • Morey’s recent contract extension from the Rockets is estimated to pay the executive in the neighborhood of $8MM annually, Stein hears. Magic Johnson‘s salary as the Lakers’ team president was estimated to be $10MM per year and Stein argues that Los Angeles could feasibly offer a candidate double that salary if they wanted to lure a prized rival executive.
  • Stein writes that there is both “shock and relief” within the league that the Lakers haven’t attempted to poach a decorated rival executive, such as Myers, Spurs GM R.C. Buford, or Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Lakers Meeting With Williams On Tuesday, Lue On Friday

11:55am: Pelinka is meeting with Williams today to discuss the club’s head coaching job, tweets Turner.

10:46am: Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is scheduled to meet with Tyronn Lue this Friday in Los Angeles to discuss the team’s head coaching position, reports Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Lue is one of a handful of candidates the Lakers are said to be considering to replace Luke Walton, who was let go last week. Team officials are reportedly traveling to meet with Sixers assistant Monty Williams this week, and an interview with Heat assistant Juwan Howard is also expected to take place at some point this week.

A former NBA point guard, Lue began his coaching career as an assistant in Boston under Doc Rivers in 2011. After moving with Rivers to the Clippers for one season in 2013/14, Lue made his way to Cleveland, where he was an assistant for a year and a half before taking the head coaching reins from David Blatt midway through the 2015/16 campaign.

Lue led the Cavaliers to a championship that season and brought the team back to the NBA Finals in each of the following two years. After LeBron James‘ departure during the 2018 offseason, Lue lasted just six more games, having been replaced by Larry Drew in the fall once the Cavs started this season 0-6.

During his time in Cleveland, Lue had to take a health-related leave of absence due to chest pains which were believed to be compounded by stress. However, Joe Vardon of The Athletic recently wrote that the former Cavs coach is healthy now, having lost 35 pounds with a new workout plan and diet. The fact that Lue is willing to pursue the Lakers’ job suggests he’s confident he can return to a demanding position.

Lakers To Interview Juwan Howard

2:28pm: Members of the Lakers’ front office will travel to meet with Williams sometime after Game 2 of the Sixers’ playoff series, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

2:14pm: The Lakers have received permission to talk to Heat assistant Juwan Howard about their head coaching vacancy, tweets ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. An interview will probably take place next week, she adds.

Howard is the third name to appear in the Lakers’ coaching search since they parted ways with Luke Walton on Friday. L.A. also plans to discuss the job with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue next week and has gotten permission from the Sixers to interview assistant coach Monty Williams.

Earlier today, we told you that Howard and Jamahl Mosley will interview to replace Larry Drew in Cleveland

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Brown, Williams, Harding

The playoffs opened with three upsets, but nobody had a worse day than the Sixers, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. Philadelphia’s problems go beyond the final score, as nearly every fear about the team heading into the postseason came true. Joel Embiid‘s sore knee, Ben Simmons‘ limited shooting range, the lack of a bench, defensive concerns and chemistry issues were all on display as fans booed loudly in a loss to the Nets.

Some observers believe the Sixers compiled the most talented starting unit in the league by trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, but those five players only took the court together 10 times in the regular season. And with Butler, Harris and J.J. Redick all headed for free agency, the team could easily break apart if the postseason doesn’t go well.

An even greater concern might be Embiid’s physical condition. Bothered by tendinitis in his left knee that limited him to eight games after the All-Star break, Embiid wasn’t sure if he could play until 15 minutes before Saturday’s contest began. He lumbered up and down the court for much of the afternoon, settled for outside jumpers and was frequently targeted by the Nets on defense.

“I tell him all the time, it’s about him being healthy,” Butler said. “Yeah, he can help us but at the same time, he can hurt us if he gets worse. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely want Jo out there. But we want him healthy.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Managing partner Josh Harris passed on a chance to give coach Brett Brown a vote of confidence before yesterday’s opener, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris has commented before that it could be “problematic” if the team doesn’t make a long playoff run. “What I meant by it is that all of us – Brett, [general manager] Elton [Brand], me, a lot of us, the players on the team. We have high expectations. So that is what I meant,” Harris said when asked about Brown’s future.
  • The Sixers won’t stand in the way of any assistant who gets a head coaching opportunity, Brand told Pompey in the same story. They granted permission yesterday for Monty Williams to interview for the open job with the Lakers, where he and Tyronn Lue appear to be the top candidates. “We respect that, the chance to have more responsibility and be a head coach,” Brand said. “For anyone on our staff to have a deeper role, we will honor that. We don’t want dysfunction, we don’t want distractions, but it is what it is.”
  • Lindsey Harding was promoted this week to player development coach, the team announced on its website. She joined the organization prior to this season as a pro personnel scout.

Lakers Get Permission To Interview Monty Williams, Will Meet With Tyronn Lue

The Lakers have received permission to talk to Sixers assistant Monty Williams about their head coaching job, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. L.A. is expected to meet next week with Tyronn Lue, another top candidate for the position, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Woj notes that Williams won’t fly to Los Angeles while his team is involved in a playoff series, so initial contact is likely to be made either by phone or by Lakers officials traveling to meet with him.

Williams, 47, joined the Sixers as lead assistant this season after taking a two-year break from the NBA following his wife’s death in a car accident. He compiled a 173-221 record as a head coach in New Orleans and has served as an assistant in Portland and Oklahoma City as well.

Lue, 41, would come with plenty of experience in coaching Lakers star LeBron James. They spent several years together in Cleveland and combined to bring the city an NBA title in 2016. The Cavaliers fired Lue in October after an 0-6 start.

Kings To Interview Walton; Messina Also On Their List

The Kings have formally requested an interview with Luke Walton, who parted ways with the Lakers on Friday, and also intend to request permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina for their vacant head coaching job, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. (Hat tip to USA Today’s Sam Amick).

Walton is reportedly GM Vlade Divac’s leading candidate for the job. Messina was a finalist for the Raptors’ job last season, which wound up going to Nick Nurse. He also met twice with the Bucks’ brass last season before Milwaukee chose Mike Budenholzer.

The Kings fired Dave Joerger on Thursday, even though they improved enough to win 39 games. Sixers assistant Monty Williams is also expected to get a long look from Divac.

The fact that Divac is already lining up interviews suggests he’d like to make the coaching hire quickly.

Lakers, Luke Walton Agree To Part Ways

The Lakers and head coach Luke Walton have mutually agreed to part ways, the team announced today in a press release.

“I want to thank (team owner) Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to coach the Lakers,” Walton said in a statement. “This franchise and the city will always be special to me and my family.”

It has been a wild week for Walton, who was viewed as a dead man walking for the last several weeks of the 2018/19 season. Widely expected to be fired at season’s end, Walton appeared to get a second life when president of basketball operations Magic Johnson abruptly announced his resignation on Tuesday night.

With Johnson out of the picture, in part because he decided he didn’t want the responsibility of firing Walton, there was a sense that the head coach might stick around to help provide some stability in a period of upheaval for the franchise — particularly since Buss was said to be a big fan of Walton.

However, it appears the Lakers will be in the market for a new head coach after all, having become the fourth team to announce a head coaching change in the last two days, joining Sacramento, Memphis, and Cleveland.

Two of those teams, the Kings and Cavaliers, have previously been cited as potential landing spots for Walton, assuming he opts to continue his head coaching career right away after three up-and-down season in Los Angeles. According to Sam Amick of USA Today (via Twitter), Kings GM Vlade Divac views Walton as a top candidate to replace Dave Joerger, and is expected to reach out to him soon.

Walton technically improved his record every year as the Lakers’ coach, winning 26, 35, and 37 games to finish with an overall mark of 98-148 (.398). However, this season’s squad, hit hard by injuries and negatively impacted by the midseason Anthony Davis trade-rumor saga, fell well short of expectations following last summer’s acquisition of LeBron James.

It’s not clear if the Lakers intend to bring in a top-level executive to replace Johnson in their front office. Typically in this situation, a new head of basketball operations would be given the opportunity to hand-pick his own head coach, but it appears as if the team already has its eye on a pair of head coaching candidates

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter) that the Lakers’ coaching search is expected to focus on former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue and former Pelicans head coach Monty Williams. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports mentioned those two candidates earlier this week, noting that former Warriors coach Mark Jackson was also on L.A.’s list.

Lue, of course, has experience coaching James in Cleveland, while Williams has worked with LeBron on Team USA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kings Fire Head Coach Dave Joerger

12:27pm: The Kings have now fired Joerger, officially announcing the decision in a press release.

“After evaluating the season, I determined that we need to move in a different direction in order to take us to the next level,” Divac said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Kings organization, I want to thank Dave for his contributions to our team and I wish him all the best.”

11:08am: Kings general manager Vlade Divac is having a face-to-face meeting with head coach Dave Joerger today and intends to fire Joerger during that sitdown, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Kings sign Vlade Divac to contract extension]

It’s a somewhat surprising move, given the success Joerger had with the young Kings this season. The club was in playoff contention through the All-Star break and finished with 39 wins, the most victories a Sacramento team has had since the 2005/06 season. Under Joerger, guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield enjoyed breakout seasons, with young players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley also showing promise.

However, the Kings slumped at the end of the season, going 9-17 down the stretch and losing some games that they shouldn’t have. Additionally, Joerger reportedly had some tension with the team’s front office throughout the year related to minutes for young players, and notably clashed with assistant GM Brandon Williams. An earlier report from Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link) indicated that Williams won’t be back next season either.

In three total seasons with the Kings, Joerger posted a 98-148 (.398) record, with no playoff appearances. He previously coached the Grizzlies for three years, posting a 147-99 (.598) regular-season mark in Memphis, with a 9-13 record in four playoff series. Joerger had one year remaining on his contract with the Kings.

Wojnarowski suggests (via Twitter) that Divac, with a new contract extension in hand, is “consolidating power” around himself in the Kings’ front office. He’ll presumably take the lead in picking Joerger’s replacement.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), Luke Walton would be a top candidate for Sacramento if the Lakers let him go, though Walton isn’t necessarily a lock to be replaced in L.A. now that Magic Johnson has stepped down. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter) also identifies Spurs assistant Ettore Messina as a name to watch in Sacramento, while Amick (via Twitter) adds Sixers assistant Monty Williams to the list of potential candidates for the Kings.

As for Joerger, the Minnesota native has frequently been linked to the Timberwolves’ head coaching job, as Lowe notes (via Twitter). However, there’s a belief that Ryan Saunders might hang onto his position with the Wolves — that situation is in flux, as Minnesota seeks a new president of basketball operations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.