Nate Bjorkgren

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Nets, Harris, Cavs, Raptors Staff

The Nets plan to re-sign unrestricted free agent Blake Griffin and are also looking to add depth at center as the free agency period begins, general manager Sean Marks told ESPN’s Malika Andrews and other media members (Twitter link). Money does not appear to be an object — Marks said the Nets are “married to the luxury tax” and owner Joe Tsai is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.

We have more from the Eastern Conference

  • A report that the Sixers are shopping Tobias Harris isn’t accurate, a source familiar with the situation tells Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice. It’s likely that the Harris trade rumor is old news, since his name came up as part of a larger deal with the Rockets earlier this year before James Harden was dealt to the Nets.
  • Along with the pending acquisition of Ricky Rubio, the Cavaliers could look to add another veteran or two in free agency, particularly on the wing, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Doug McDermott and Reggie Bullock are two names to watch with Cleveland dangling all or part of its mid-level exception for their services. The Rubio deal with the Timberwolves can become official on Friday.
  • The Raptors have added Earl Watson, Trevor Gleeson and Nathaniel Mitchell to Nick Nurse‘s coaching staff. However, former assistant Nate Bjorkgren, who was fired after a season as the Pacers’ head coach, will not return to Toronto, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter links).

Olympic Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Birch, Bjorkgren, Jokic, Australia

Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler had an invite but he battled through a variety of ailments this season and had a short turnaround between seasons after Miami surprisingly reached the NBA Finals last summer.

We have more info on this year’s Olympics:

  • The Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk and Raptors’ Khem Birch are among the prominent players not listed among the 24 players Team Canada submitted to FIBA in advance of its Olympic qualifier, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. They’re both unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke is also not on the preliminary list, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. The 24-man roster can be found here.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who was let go by the Pacers after one season as head coach, will join Nick Nurse’s Team Canada staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bjorkgren was one of Nurse’s top assistants before his stint with Indiana.
  • MVP Nikola Jokic won’t play for the Serbian team at the Olympic qualifier due to an exhausting NBA campaign, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, “Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court for recovery.” The Denver Post story asserts Jokic won’t play in the Olympics even if his national team qualifies, while an ESPN story says it’s unclear if Jokic would participate in Tokyo.
  • The Australian national team will play exhibitions against Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas before departing for Tokyo, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. The 19-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 12, is expected to be loaded with NBA players, including Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles.

Pacers Rumors: Turner, Budenholzer, Shaw, Bjorkgren, More

Prior to the 2021 trade deadline, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reported that the Hornets, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Pelicans were among the teams to express interest in Pacers big man Myles Turner. With Turner possibly available again this summer in trade talks, many of those teams could renew their interest in the NBA’s shot-blocking leader.

Exploring that possibility, Michael tweets that the Hornets and Timberwolves are the teams that seem to “really” want Turner. Michael speculates (via Twitter) that Charlotte would be the team most likely to make an aggressive trade offer for the 25-year-old if the Pacers are willing to move him.

Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • If the Bucks decide to move on from Mike Budenholzer after their season ends, he’d move to the top of the Pacers’ list of potential head coaching candidates, league sources tell J. Michael. Michael adds that G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw, formerly a Pacers assistant, is also expected to be a serious candidate for the job.
  • In a subscriber-only piece for The Indianapolis Star, Michael takes a look at the factors that led to Nate Bjorkgren‘s ouster after just one season. One league executive described Bjorkgren’s coaching style as “fake positivity,” according to Michael, who also provides details on Bjorkgren’s tendency to micro-manage and his failure to hold players accountable. Michael adds that the first-year coach “made sure those beneath him knew their place,” which lines up with a May report that stated Bjorkgren didn’t treat his assistants particularly well.
  • Although the Pacers haven’t ruled out blowing up their roster, team owner Herb Simon may be averse to that idea, according to Michael, who suggests the club seems likely to bring back Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren.

Kevin Pritchard: “It’s My Fault” Nate Bjorkgren Didn’t Work Out

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard accepts responsibility for Nate Bjorkgren’s unsuccessful stint as head coach, writes Bob Kravitz of The Athletic.

The team fired Bjorkgren on Wednesday after one season on the job, but the decision has seemed inevitable for weeks. Reports began circulating in early May that management was unhappy with Bjorkgren’s coaching style and his relationship with his players and staff.

With only one season remaining on his two-year contract, there was little reason not to move on.

“It’s my fault,” Pritchard said after the decision was made. “It’s our organization’s fault. We’ve got to do better.” He later added, “When we hired Nate, we wanted to take a risk. We wanted to try something new … I’m thankful for Nate; he worked his tail off. There were some things he did well. And there were some things I think he wished he had done differently.”

Bjorkgren, 45, is a former G League coach who spent two years as an assistant with the Suns and two years with the Raptors before the opportunity arose with Indiana. He led the Pacers to a 34-38 record and a spot in the play-in tournament despite significant injuries, but they were eliminated after two games.

Bjorkgren got a reputation in the locker room for not being tough enough, tweets J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Although there were numerous complaints about Bjorkgren, Michael adds there’s no evidence that the team’s best players, Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, ever asked for him to be fired.

Pritchard repeatedly took matters into his own hands, Michael adds (via Twitter). A source said Pritchard went to the locker room following games at least four times this season to berate the players for what he viewed as poor effort. Pritchard had never done that before, according to Michael.

After being burned by the Bjorkgren hiring, Kravitz expects Pritchard to be far more conservative next time. Former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts has been mentioned as a candidate, and Kravitz suggests the team might also look at Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, Clippers assistant Kenny Atkinson and Sixers assistant Dave Joerger, who all have previous head coaching experience.

Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren

12:15pm: The Pacers have officially announced in a press release that Bjorkgren won’t be retained for the 2021/22 season.

“The 2020/21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

“We have determined this is the right time to move in a different direction, and on behalf of the Simon Family and the entire Pacers organization, I want to express my gratitude to Nate for his efforts leading our team. While we do not have a definite timetable for our search, we will move quickly to identify candidates who will make our team and our organization stronger.”


10:56am: The Pacers have decided to part ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren after his first year on the job, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Bjorkgren was informed today of the Pacers’ decision to let him go after he met with management on Tuesday. The team intends to seek out a more experienced, established head coach to replace Bjorkgren, who lost the locker room and “much of the organization” this season, Wojnarowski adds.

The Pacers moved on from Nate McMillan a year ago after a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit in the hopes of hiring a new coach who would modernize the team’s offense and increase its ceiling. Although Bjorkgren did help improve Indiana’s offense, the defense took a major step backward and the former Raptors assistant reportedly had major communication issues with players and coaches alike.

Multiple reports during the final weeks of the regular season indicated that Bjorkgren was on the hot seat, and failing to secure a playoff spot in the play-in tournament presumably didn’t help his chances of sticking around.

Given how many injuries the Pacers dealt with during the 2020/21 campaign, it’s unclear how much more another coach could’ve gotten out of the roster. And since Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract, there was a belief that the small-market Pacers may prefer to give him another chance rather than having to commit financially to a second head coaching contract. However, it sounds like the issues with Bjorkgren were too widespread to make continuing the relationship a viable choice.

Indiana becomes the fourth team to enter the market for a new head coach this spring, joining Boston, Portland, and Orlando. Because they conducted an extensive search for a coach in 2020 before landing on Bjorkgren, the Pacers may already have a leg up in this year’s search, having gotten familiar with several candidates who could be on their radar again. However, new candidates will be considered as well.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

One of those new candidates, who wasn’t available a year ago, is former Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers are expected to take a look at Stotts, while Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says (via Twitter) league sources have increasingly identified Stotts as a leading candidate for the job in Indiana. Josh Robbins of The Athletic previously reported that league sources expect the Pacers to interview Steve Clifford following his exit from Orlando.

As for Bjorkgren’s future, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Nurse‘s former assistant – and good friend – ends up returning to Toronto. The Raptors lost a top assistant midway through the 2020/21 season when Chris Finch was hired as Minnesota’s head coach, and Nurse strongly defended Bjorkgren amidst last month’s negative reports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Lopez, Plumlee, Bjorkgren, Sabonis, Turner

Bucks center Brook Lopez will be facing his former team in the conference semifinals and Nets coach Steve Nash believes he could be a key player in the series, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “He could be one of the wild cards,” Nash said. Lopez, who is signed through the 2022/23 season, averaged 15.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG during the first-round sweep of the Heat.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons raised a lot of eyebrows when they signed Nuggets reserve center Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $24MM+ contract last fall but Plumlee justified it with a productive season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Plumlee averaged 10.4 PPG, a career-high 9.3 RPG and 3.6 APG while serving as a post facilitator and setting solid screens. He’ll remain a rotation fixture in his second season with the franchise, Langlois adds.
  • The Pacers’ offseason appears to be on hold until the front office decides what to do with head coach Nate Bjorkgren, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files writes. It’s the biggest decision that team president Kevin Pritchard will make to date and he’s pondering all his options.
  • If the Pacers decide to break up their frontcourt duo of All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, it’s generally assumed the front office will move Turner. Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel (subscription required) explores a variety of metrics and concludes that it’s not a clear-cut decision.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Bjorkgren, Frontcourt, FAs, More

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said no decisions have been made yet on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes. Bjorkgren isn’t the only one whose future is up in the air, according to Pritchard, who pointed out that his own performance is still being evaluated by team ownership as well.

“I’m being evaluated. I’m being evaluated every day,” Pritchard said. “(Pacers owner) Herb (Simon) has to decide if I’m fit for this job and what I need to improve on. Then Nate and I will have a long conversation over many days on what he needs to improve on. … He is our coach as of now and I’ll have a fair discussion with him.”

The Pacers’ president of basketball operations acknowledged that Bjorkgren’s first year on the job was far from perfect. While Pritchard liked Bjorkgren’s handle on X’s and O’s, he said that the first-year coach did have a tendency to micromanage. Still, Pacers players didn’t express during their exit meetings that they were unhappy with Bjorkgren, Pritchard added.

Pritchard also pushed back against the idea that the Pacers hadn’t adequately done their homework on Bjorkgren before hiring him last summer, as Michael tweets.

We probably did 15 interviews around Nate,” Pritchard said. “We knew that he’s very specific in the way he likes things. We knew that. You got to give a coach some flexibility to do what he likes to do.”

Here’s more from Pritchard’s end-of-season presser:

  • Pritchard remains convinced that the Pacers can succeed without moving one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis (Twitter link via Michael). We like them both,” Pritchard said of the frontcourt duo. “They can definitely play together. You can stagger them.
  • Pritchard referred to Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell as “core to what we’ve done” (Twitter link via Michael). Both players will be unrestricted free agents this summer, but it sounds like there’s mutual interest in continuing those relationships.
  • Although Pritchard stressed that the Pacers won’t be desperate to make deals this summer, he said he’d prefer not to get stuck in the “middle ground” between contending and rebuilding. I want to get in or get out,” Pritchard said, according to Michael (Twitter links). “Out means getting picks (and revamping the roster).”
  • Pritchard referred to the Pacers’ defense as “by far the most important thing that we have to take a look at,” as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. It remains to be seen whether that means addressing the personnel or the coaching staff and schemes.
  • Caris LeVert is one Pacer who has yet to have his exit meeting with team management, since he remains in isolation due to the COVID-19 protocols and wants to conduct his meeting in person (Twitter link via Agness).

Pacers Notes: Warren, McConnell, Bjorkgren, Stanley

Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who missed all but four games this season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, discussed his lost 2020/21 season, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files details. “I just know it can’t storm forever and the sun has to come out,” Warren said of his extended rehab process. Warren has one year and $12.9MM remaining on his current contract after this season.

Warren also had harsh words in response to a report claiming that he was had requested a trade because he was at odds with embattled head coach Nate Bjorkgren.

“Seeing that report was really, really terrible,” Warren said, adding that Bjorkgren has been “nothing but a great guy” since becoming the Pacers’ head coach. “Not cool.”

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pacers reserve point guard T.J. McConnell appears hopeful about returning to Indiana as he reaches unrestricted free agency during the 2021 offseason, tweets J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. “I would love to be back here,” McConnell said. “I absolutely love it here. … I don’t have a bad thing to say about anything or anyone.” McConnell signed a two-year, $7MM deal with Indiana in the summer of 2019.
  • The Pacers are not expected to make an immediate decision on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. A report detailing locker room tensions surfaced earlier this month that appeared to put Bjorkgren’s long-term fate in doubt. “My focus is on the players right now,” Bjorkgren himself responded when asked about the situation earlier this week. “And I’m not thinking about myself, I’m really not. I want to do what’s best for these guys.” The Pacers lost Thursday’s play-in game to slide out of the postseason and into the lottery during Bjorkgren’s first season at the helm.
  • Following his rookie season, Pacers first-year shooting guard Cassius Stanley will play in the Summer League, scheduled for this August in Las Vegas, tweets Agness.

Pacers Notes: Bjorkgren, McDermott, Turner, Draft

Following a Thursday loss in the East’s final 2021 play-in game, the Pacers‘ season is over, raising questions about the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren. Although he was just hired last fall, Bjorkgren is said to be very much on the hot seat after a tumultuous, disappointing season in Indiana. For his part, the first-year coach was evasive on Thursday when asked whether he expects to be back.

“My focus is on the players right now,” Bjorkgren said, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). “I’m not thinking about myself. I’m really not. I just want to do what’s best for these guys.”

It’s decision time for the Pacers, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, who advises not to be surprised if the club takes a little time to make a call on Bjorkgren’s status, one way or the other.

Bob Kravitz of The Athletic suggests that Bjorkgren probably took a banged-up Pacers team about as far could be realistically expected, but if he’s to return for the 2021/22, there must be changes — “both with Bjorkgren himself and with his coaching staff,” Kravitz writes.

As we wait on the Pacers’ decision, let’s round up a few more notes out of Indiana…

  • While it’s possible that Bjorkgren was the problem for the Pacers, Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star isn’t entirely convinced of that, and writes an offseason roster shakeup might not be the worst idea for the organization.
  • Most of the Pacers’ key rotation players are under contract for next season, but Doug McDermott is one important contributor who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. McDermott addressed his situation after Thursday’s game, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star relays (via Twitter): “I want to be a Pacer. It’s been a great three years. It’s been a great place to call home. I hope I can continue that.”
  • Although Myles Turner‘s toe injury didn’t heal in time for him to rejoin the Pacers before they were eliminated from postseason contention, he’s hoping to be healthy enough to compete for a spot on Team USA’s Olympic roster this summer, he tells Sean Deveney of Forbes.
  • As we outlined earlier today, the Pacers are now in line for the 13th pick in the 2021 draft, as long as their position isn’t affected by the lottery results. Nat Newell of The Indianapolis Star, noting that Indiana’s two most recent lottery picks were Turner and Paul George, examines the recent history of the No. 13 pick to get an idea of what sort of player the team could realistically land.

Central Notes: Vucevic, Bulls, Joseph, Ellington, Warren

Nikola Vucevic didn’t shoot three-pointers when he entered the league in 2011, but it’s become a big part of his offensive game in recent years, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. The All-Star center has drained 44.1% of his long-range shots since joining the Bulls. “I think it’s also the way the NBA has been going, and I had to adjust,” he said. “I used to shoot a lot of mid-ranges. That’s not as much a part of the way teams play, so I had to make an adjustment and evolve.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis, Denzel Valentine and Tomas Satoransky are among the players who likely won’t remain with the Bulls next season, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic speculates. Mayberry takes a look at each player and predicts whether they’ll be part of the front office’s plans.
  • The Pistons snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating Memphis on Thursday. It’s no coincidence that veterans guards Cory Joseph and Wayne Ellington suited up, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. That duo scored 18 points apiece and Joseph added 11 assists. “Guys were kind of hanging their head and losing confidence a little bit,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “We understand – we’re rebuilding. But you’ve got to compete to win each night.” Ellington will be a free agent after the season, while Joseph’s $12.6MM contract is only partially guaranteed.
  • There were conflicting reports this week about whether T.J. Warren asked for a trade and his feelings toward Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link) cites a new source who says that Warren is happy in Indiana, noting that Warren has been featured offensively and will be paid like a main cog. Warren also likes playing in a smaller market and the franchise’s plans for him, regardless of who’s coaching the team, Michael’s source adds.