Nate Bjorkgren

Central Notes: Hayes, Bey, Gores, Brogdon, Love

The Pistons are easing their young players into the rotation and that’s to be expected, James Edwards III of The Athletic writes.

Veterans Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, both of whom sat out Monday’s game at Atlanta, played heavy minutes in the double overtime loss to Cleveland on Saturday. Lottery pick Killian Hayes sat during crunch time, while Saddiq Bey has played only six minutes. The Pistons’ other first-round pick, Isaiah Stewart, didn’t play at all in the first two games.

It’s unrealistic to expect all of the Pistons’ developmental players to log 15-plus minutes a game at this point but their playing time will increase as the season progresses, Edwards adds. Hayes and Bey started against the Hawks.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores rubber-stamps new GM Troy Weaver’s roster moves, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Detroit has only four holdovers on its 15-man roster and Weaver engineered trades to draft Bey and Stewart. “To get three first-round picks I think was a win for us,” Gores said. “We have to see how those young men develop, but I’d say the thing Troy did right away was he really owned this. He didn’t sit back and worry about it. He was thoughtfully aggressive, and he owned it.”
  • Malcolm Brogdon wasn’t thrilled with the Pacers’ previous coach but he has been quick to praise new coach Nate Bjorkgren, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star writes. Bjorkgren drew up the game-winning play on Sunday, a Domantas Sabonis basket against Boston. “It takes a high-IQ coach and a patient coach to draw something like that up there,” said Brogdon, who was reportedly the Indiana player who was most outspoken and displeased with Nate McMillan’s coaching style.
  • Kevin Love and lottery pick Isaac Okoro are among a handful of Cavaliers players who will miss Tuesday’s game against the Knicks, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Love has a calf strain that kept him out of the team’s opener and limited him to nine minutes against Philadelphia on Sunday. Okoro will sit out for the second straight game with a foot sprain.

Pacers Notes: Oladipo, Roster, Hayward, Warren, Lamb

Don’t count on Victor Oladipo to start the season with any team besides the Pacers. Speaking today to reporters, including Michael McCleary of The Indianapolis Star, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said that Oladipo and agent Aaron Turner have both expressed that the standout guard is fully committed to the franchise.

“I think it took some time for (Oladipo) to think about what are his goals,” Pritchard said on Wednesday. “I got a call from his agent yesterday and it’s the same thing, ‘Can’t wait to get to camp, can’t wait to show that he’s healthy and that he’s 100% committed.’ And I have to take people at their word.”

Oladipo has been the subject of trade rumors for several months, with one report even suggesting that he’d asked members of other teams last season if he could come play for them. A report earlier today confirmed that the Bucks and Pacers discussed a possible Oladipo trade earlier in the offseason.

However, the 28-year-old publicly committed to the organization less than two weeks ago and Pritchard sounds satisfied with where things stand. The Pacers’ top basketball executive told reporters today, including McCleary, that the two-time All-Star has formed a strong relationship with new head coach Nate Bjorkgren and that he thinks that could be “a major factor in “chang(ing) the tide in terms of what (Oladipo) feels about us.”

Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • The Pacers have 13 players on guaranteed contracts and will keep the last two roster spots open to encourage competition, Pritchard said today (Twitter link via J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star).
  • Pritchard said the Pacers pursued Gordon Hayward in free agency “as hard as we possibly could” (Twitter link via Michael). He added that he was transparent with the Pacers players who were discussed in Hayward sign-and-trade scenarios, so there were no surprises when those names were leaked (Twitter link via Michael).
  • Addressing the Hayward situation further, Pritchard said “it hurt a little” to miss out on the forward, since “the feedback was he wanted to be here.” Ultimately though, the Pacers didn’t feel comfortable matching the Celtics’ asking price in a sign-and-trade deal.It can’t come at a cost so debilitating that it doesn’t make sense,” Pritchard said (Twitter links via Michael).
  • The Pacers are determined to play T.J. Warren at the four this season after his success there during the NBA restart, Pritchard said (Twitter link via Michael).
  • According to Pritchard, the Pacers are hoping that Jeremy Lamb will be practicing by mid-December and back on the court by mid-January at the latest (Twitter link via Michael). Lamb is returning from a torn ACL suffered last February.
  • In case you missed it, Indianapolis will now host the 2024 All-Star Game rather than the 2021 event, which is being postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Pacers Rumors: Oladipo, Turner, Brogdon, More

Victor Oladipo agitated some of his Pacers teammates by saying some iteration of “Can I come play with y’all?” to members of the Raptors, Heat, and Knicks last season in front of his teammates, three sources tell J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.

According to Michael, Oladipo has also gained a reputation throughout his career for being moody — he’ll be positive when things are going well, but has a tendency to point fingers if they aren’t, sources tell The Indy Star.

Still, Michael says the odds have increased that Oladipo will still be in Indiana when the 2020/21 season gets underway. As Michael explains, replacing head coach Nate McMillan with Nate Bjorkgren has helped “change the tone” for the Pacers, whose front office has maintained a “good rapport” with Oladipo. According to Michael, Oladipo’s agent Aaron Turner has also conveyed to the franchise that his client would like to stick around.

The Pacers have engaged in trade discussions involving Oladipo, including in hypothetical three-team deals that would also include big man Myles Turner, sources tell Michael. But for now, the two-time All-Star seems more likely than not to remain a Pacer until at least the 2021 trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Indiana is keeping the door open for possible contract extension talks with Oladipo, but doesn’t expect a deal to be reached before he hits free agency in 2021, writes Michael. Signing a new contract in free agency would be the best way for Oladipo to maximize his earnings, since the most lucrative extension the Pacers can offer is worth less than the max.
  • Turner has generated plenty of interest, with the Celtics and Hornets believed to be among the teams with an eye on him, according to Michael. League sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Indy Star that while Turner entered the offseason resigned to the possibility that he may be playing elsewhere in 2020/21, the most recent interactions he has had with the franchise suggest he may end up staying put.
  • After joining the Pacers in 2019, Malcolm Brogdon emerged as the team’s leader. A league source told The Indy Star earlier this year that Oladipo felt it was “no longer his locker room” when he returned from his quad tendon injury, and two sources have since confirmed that sentiment, per Michael.
  • Brogdon was also the player who was most outspoken and displeased with McMillan’s coaching style, which was referred to as “coaching through fear,” according to Michael.

Central Notes: Brogdon, Cavs, Pistons, Bulls

Count veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon among those who are enthusiastic about the Pacers‘ decision to hire former Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach. Appearing on ESPN’s The Jump on Thursday, Brogdon said he’d had lunch with Bjorkgren earlier in the day and is looking forward to getting to work with the first-time head coach.

“He’s going to be terrific,” Brogdon said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Toronto has a great culture, as we all know, and a lot of bright young minds, and he’s one of them, so I’m super excited to have him on board.”

Brogdon also told The Jump’s panel that he’s working this offseason on expanding his game by improving his shot off the dribble. And after missing at least 18 games in each of the past three seasons due to injuries, he’s hoping he can stay healthier in 2020/21.

“My only fully healthy season has been my rookie year, and then the past three years I’ve sat out 15 to 20 games,” Brogdon said. “So that’s really hurt me, and I think it’s really hurt my team.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After months of consideration, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com offers up what he thinks are the Cavaliers‘ top five options with the No. 5 selection, starting with trading down. Fedor – who assumes that LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman won’t be available at No. 5 – contends that Isaac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu should be the Cavs’ top targets if they keep the pick.
  • Within a mailbag, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic considers whether the probability of fans not being in arenas for 2020/21 should influence the Pistons‘ roster decisions at all this offseason — not having to worry about selling tickets to 41 home games means the team could be more willing to bottom out.
  • While the Bulls may explore trading up or down in the lottery, Sam Smith of Bulls.com expects the team to ultimately stand pat at No. 4.

Pacers Notes: Bjorkgren, Sabonis, Turner, Oladipo

Speaking to reporters during his introductory press conference on Wednesday, new Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said he thinks Indiana will be a “fun team to watch” next season, promising a more dynamic offense and a willingness to be adaptable, as Michael Marot of The Associated Press writes.

“You’re going to see a lot of movement on both sides of the ball, different guys handling the ball, pushing it up the floor,” Bjorkgren said. “We want to utilize the three-point line. My approach to defense is you change and change quite frequently, between quarters, after timeouts, during an 8-0 run, I think that’s the disruptive part.”

Bjorkgren has never been a head coach at the NBA level, but he did serve as the head coach for three separate G League clubs between 2011-15. On Wednesday, he said that he feels as if that experience helped prepare him to be flexible and make adjustments as an NBA coach.

“You have to adapt very early and quite often,” Bjorkgren said, per Marot. “You could be at a shootaround and two guys get called up and another is going overseas so you have to coach on the fly. You have to know the next guy will be there and that’s the part of the coaching, keeping everybody ready at all times.”

Here’s more on the Pacers and their new head coach:

  • President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers conducted formal interviews via Zoom with approximately a dozen candidates and then brought in six finalists for in-person interviews, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. By the end of the lengthy process, Pritchard was certain that Bjorkgren was the man for the job. “We felt like this was a no-brainer,” Pritchard said. “When we came to a decision, there were high-fives in our office and we knew that this was the right guy.”
  • Bjorkgren said on Wednesday that he’s “very confident” that Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner can continue to coexist in the Pacers’ lineup, likening the duo to Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka on his old team in Toronto. “When you talk about those two bigs, they’re not just any two bigs,” Bjorkgren said of Indiana’s duo, per Hotchkiss. “They are very dynamic and they complement each other very well.”
  • Asked during Wednesday’s presser about Victor Oladipo, neither Pritchard nor Bjorkgren gave any indication that they expect the All-Star guard to be traded this offseason. “He feels good about the team. He’s talked to me about how he thinks this team can be very good,” Pritchard said, according to Marot. “We hear a lot of things, but until it comes to me, I don’t really worry about that.”
  • Bjorkgren added that Oladipo texted him “immediately” after news of his hiring broke. “We had a great talk,” Bjorkgren said. “We talked about what I thought he could do, what I thought he could bring to this team, how he could make this team better, and how he could make himself better… I like his energy. I feel like our energy fed off each other a little bit there during the phone call.”

Pacers Notes: Assistants, HC Finalists, Nurse, Bjorkgren

Though newly-hired Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren will have the opportunity to fill out his bench with assistants of his selection, the Pacers ownership and front office may provide some input, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). As Michael points out, Indiana became familiar with many coaches around the NBA during its expansive coaching search, so the team will have plenty of intel about possible candidates to share with Bjorkgren.

There’s more out of Indiana:

  • Sixers assistant Ime Udoka, Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, and Heat assistant Dan Craig were among the other finalists for the Pacers’ head coaching job, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was ebullient in his praise for his former assistant coach Bjorkgren, releasing a statement via Toronto’s team Twitter. “Nate and I have known each other for 30 years,” Nurse said. “I’ll miss having him next to me on our bench, and I know the Raptors players and staff will miss working with him every day.”
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic unpacks the career of Bjorkgren, praising the new Pacers head coach’s apparent flexibility with regard to making offensive and defensive schemes fit his personnel.

Pacers Hire Nate Bjorkgren As Head Coach

12:42pm: The Pacers have made it official, announcing the hire of Bjorkgren in a press release.

“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”


11:15am: The Pacers are hiring Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Bjorkgren got his start as a professional coach in the G League, where he served as an assistant on the Iowa Energy’s staff from 2007-11 under Nick Nurse. Bjorkgren subsequently held multiple head coaching jobs in the NBAGL before being hired by the Suns in 2015 as an assistant. In 2018, he rejoined Nurse as an assistant on Toronto’s staff.

Although Bjorkgren has won G League and NBA championships as an assistant and has been a head coach at the NBAGL level, this will be his first stint as the head coach of an NBA franchise. He’ll replace Nate McMillan, who was let go by the Pacers following the team’s fourth consecutive first-round exit this summer.

Following McMillan’s departure, Pacers management talked about wanting to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game and has the ability to communicate with younger players.

According to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link), Indiana took notice – particularly this summer in the bubble – of the way Nurse and his staff run the Raptors, including their ability to connect with players and give them more one-on-one attention. That’s something the team wanted in its new coach.

During the interview process, Bjorkgren sold the Pacers on his history of “innovation, adaptability and winning,” sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Before choosing Bjorkgren, Indiana put together a lengthy list of candidates for the head coaching vacancy, having reportedly held at least informal discussions with more than 20 contenders.

Chris Finch, Darvin Ham, Dan Craig, Chris Quinn, Mike D’Antoni, Dave Joerger, and Chauncey Billups were among the candidates said to have impressed the Pacers at some point during the process. Joerger has since agreed to join Doc Rivers‘ staff in Philadelphia, while Billups now appears set to join Tyronn Lue‘s staff with the Clippers.

As our head coaching search tracker shows, only three teams – the Rockets, Pelicans, and Thunder – are still seeking new head coaches now that the Pacers have found their man.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.”

Atlantic Notes: Scott, Knicks, Donaldson, Raptors Staff

The Sixers are investigating an altercation between forward Mike Scott and an Eagles fan outside of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Enrico Campitelli of NBC Sports relays. Scott, who re-signed with the Sixers in July on a two-year contract, is a Washington Redskins fan and posted pictures of himself wearing a Redskins jersey on social media. The altercation was captured on video from at least two angles.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former University of Minnesota guard Dupree McBrayer, ex-Georgetown guard Trey Dickerson and guard Pe’Shon Howard, who played for the Capital City Go Go last season, worked out for the Knicks and scrimmaged against their players Monday, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, who played for the Killer 3’s of the BIG3, was also involved in the scrimmage.  The Knicks have a two-way deal and Exhibit 10 contracts to offer, Kennedy notes.
  • New Raptors assistant coach Brittni Donaldson, who had been in the team’s front office, was originally hired by the organization after a stint with STATS LLC, as Zach Lowe of ESPN details. Donaldson made such a good impression analyzing the data and producing specific reports for NBA teams that the Raptors hired her. She will take the lead in translating analytic data for players and coaches but she’ll also scout opponents, debate rotations and X’s and O’s, and pitch strategic ideas, Lowe adds.
  • The Raptors officially announced the addition of 26-yard-old Donaldson as well as Jon Goodwillie to Nick Nurse’s staff in a team press release. Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren, Patrick Mutombo and Jim Sann are the staff holdovers. Additionally, John Corbacio has been promoted to head video coordinator/assistant coach while Tyler Marsh, Fabulous Flournoy and Mark Tyndale will serve as assistant video coordinators/player development coaches. Goodwillie had been the team’s video coordinator since 2011.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Loyd, Nader, Knicks’ Plans

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving fully expects to be ready for the start of training camp, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. Irving told Goodman he hadn’t yet participated in a 5-on-5 full contact scrimmage but he has been working out with his trainer. He underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee in early April in which he had two screws removed. At that time, the team provided a projected recovery time of four to five months.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Combo guard Jordan Loyd is finalizing a buyout agreement with Turkish club Darussafaka, which will allow him to sign a two-way contract with the Raptors, Sportando reports. Loyd, who played with the Raptors’ summer-league squad, spent last season in Israel after playing the previous season in the G League. The 6’4” Loyd made a strong impression on Toronto’s brass while mostly playing the point in Las Vegas, leading to the contract offer.
  • The Celtics will pay the Thunder $450K before December 2nd as part of the Abdel Nader trade, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. The Celtics, who will get a trade exception at the same amount, will essentially be paying the guaranteed portion of Nader’s contract, Pincus notes. The swingman, who was on the verge of being waived, was dealt to OKC for guard Rodney Purvis.
  • The current Knicks’ front office is not fully committed to signing two top-level free agents next summer and that could be a good thing, as Sean Deveney of the Sporting News explains. The Knicks would have to clear a lot of cap space to get into that position and would likely have to give up a lottery pick to move a bad contract, Deveney continues. With a young core that includes Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, dumping a high pick to improve their free-agent market prospects sounds unwise, Deveney adds.
  • The Raptors have officially added Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Nate Bjorkgren and Phil Handy to Nick Nurse’s coaching staff, the team’s media relations department tweets.