Nate McMillan

Central Notes: Pacers, Oladipo, Cavaliers, Vonleh

The Pacers took the conference champion Cavaliers to seven games in their playoff series and feel good about their chances to contend in the upcoming season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Coach Nate McMillan is especially encouraged by Indiana’s offseason moves, which included the free agent additions of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn, along with drafting Aaron Holiday.

“We feel good about our draft picks and our free agents that we were able to pick up,” McMillan said. “We felt like we added a need to our roster. We felt like we were able to strengthen our bench. All of those were guys we felt like if we could improve that position, we wanted to. Aaron is going to be a real solid guard in this league.”

“Is it open? With LeBron [out]? Yes. We’re happy that he’s gone west,” McMillan said. “But we know that it’s still going to be a challenge and we have to make sure we work on us and not assume anything. It’s going to be a challenge for us to do the things we did last season and do it better.”

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • Victor Oladipo‘s summer is a mixture of workouts and marketing opportunities, relays J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. The league’s reigning Most Improved Player adopted a new diet and upgraded his offseason routine last year before posting the best season of his NBA career. The Pacers star is also taking advantage of his new-found fame to help build his brand. “I decided to take control on and off the court and really make decisions that are best for me instead of relying on other people,” Oladipo says. “It’s about growth, getting a little wiser, a gray hair here or there. I’m trying to grow up.”
  • The Cavaliers have 12 players on their roster with guaranteed contracts and are keeping two spots open for David Nwaba and Rodney Hood, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Cleveland was reportedly finalizing a deal with Nwaba at the start of the month, but nothing has been made official. Hood remains the top restricted free agent on the market, but has little bargaining power with so few teams having cap space remaining. Point guard Isaiah Taylor, who signed a non-guaranteed $1.5MM deal yesterday, will also compete for a roster spot, Marks adds.
  • The Cavaliers were the second choice for former Bulls forward Noah Vonleh, who signed with the Knicks this summer, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Bucks and Spurs were also in the running.

Central Notes: Valentine, McMillan, Morris, Pistons

The Bulls’ starting lineup seems set but there will be a couple of key position battles in training camp, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine will be angling for playing time at small forward behind Jabari Parker, while Cameron Payne could have an unexpectedly tough battle with Ryan Arcidiacono as the main backup at point guard. Cristiano Felicio also needs to carve out a role and earn some of his $8,470,980 salary, Cowley adds. ‘‘The thing I’m excited about with training camp is it’s going to be open competition,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers needed to extend coach Nate McMillan to prevent a lame-duck situation next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star explains. McMillan agreed to an extension through the 2020/21 season. It was also necessary for a franchise that preaches culture and loyalty to reward its coach for a job well-done last season, Michael continues. The Pacers overcame the lack of true stretch four as well as a shooter at the backup shooting guard spot. Their wings were also somewhat limited offensively and they were undersized in the backcourt, Michael adds.
  • If Jaylen Morris can improve his perimeter shooting, the Bucks will be rewarded for signing him to a two-way contract, according to Dakota Schmidt of RidiculousUpside.com. Morris is adept at attacking the basket and finishing at the rim and is also a solid defender, Schmidt continues. The 22-year-old wing will also benefit from working with assistant Ben Sullivan, who has helped numerous players with their shooting stroke, Schmidt adds.
  • The Pistons’ 15-man roster appears to be set after a low-key July that included the free agent signings of three reserves, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press relays. Ellis breaks down the roster player-by-player in the story.

Pacers, Nate McMillan Agree To Extension

1:15pm: The Pacers and McMillan are in agreement on a deal that will extend his contract through the 2020/21 season, according to Wojnarowski.

12:03pm: The Pacers and head coach Nate McMillan are finalizing a contract extension, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Terms of McMillan’s new deal aren’t yet known.

McMillan, who was named Frank Vogel‘s replacement by the Pacers back in the 2016 offseason, signed a three-year contract at that time, so he would have been entering the final year of his deal this fall if he hadn’t worked out a new agreement with the team.

Wojnarowski reported in June that the Pacers would likely discuss an extension for McMillan this offseason, with president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard confirming last month that those talks were underway.

McMillan made the Pacers’ decision to extend him an easy one. After leading the team to a 42-40 record during his first year as head coach, McMillan and the Pacers were expected to take a step back last season with star forward Paul George no longer on the roster. However, Indiana was one of the NBA’s surprise teams of 2017/18, racking up 48 wins and earning the No. 5 seed in the East. The Pacers pushed LeBron James and the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round before losing Game 7.

In total, McMillan has a 90-74 (.549) record in two seasons with the Pacers. The veteran coach, who was an assistant on Vogel’s staff before earning a promotion in 2016, had previous stints as the head coach of the SuperSonics and Trail Blazers. His overall record as a head coach is 568-526 (.519), placing him fifth among active head coaches in career wins, and 26th all-time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Offseason, Young, McMillan

The Pacers‘ free agent shopping for 2018 is all but over, with the team having used up its cap space on Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans before committing its room exception to Kyle O’Quinn. While the team may make some tweaks around the edges of its roster, it won’t be able to offer more than the veteran’s minimum to any more free agents.

With his roster for 2018/19 nearly set, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard spoke to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star about this summer’s free agent signings, an increased focus on three-point shooting, and several other Pacers-related topics. The conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from Pritchard:

On considering making a trade during last month’s draft:

“We had a couple of guys that we really liked in the draft and to move up we were going to have to take on some contracts. Some teams wanted to get off contracts. We were able to move up but it would’ve taken us completely out of free agency. What happens is you evaluate what you think can happen on July 1 in free agency, which you have no clue, or do you move up and get a young guy that’s up and coming? As we analyzed it, what we felt like was important was this team last year made a jump like we weren’t expecting. We wanted it to be a good team, but adding a really good rookie (chosen higher in the draft) is a good thing but sometimes that’s a future’s play.”

On Thaddeus Young‘s decision to exercise his player option:

“We were thrilled because we wanted to keep that starting five in place. Now we’ve kept the top seven guys (from last year’s team) in terms of minutes played and adding a few players that we feel like could come off our bench to be effective. Thad means everything to us. The continuity of that, what he brings in the locker room — it feels like we over-talk about that stuff — but it’s important. We know what Thad is. He’s going to be a great leader and he’ll have a heck of year. I have no doubt.”

On the contract status of head coach Nate McMillan, who is entering the final year of his deal:

“We’re talking right now. We value what he’s done. We understand how important he is and we’ll have conversations over the summer with him.”

On what it will take for a star free agent to seriously consider the Pacers:

“If we win a series or get a little deeper into the playoffs with our flexibility, that’s our ultimate goal. A good core we believe in and then ultimately some flexibility to go after something like that. We may not get him, but you have to at least try. For me, having some success on the court, having our players enjoy the way we play and winning, that’s the best thing Indiana can provide. If you want to come, have success, have a chance to win in the playoffs, we can provide that.”

Coaching Moves: Sixers, Raptors, Pelicans, Suns

 The Sixers have named Connor Johnson as their G League coach, the team announced in a press release. Johnson will coach the Delaware Blue Coats after working the past four seasons working with the 76ers coaching staff. The newly-named Blue Coats will play in the new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington. Johnson was Philadelphia’s director of player development and coaching administration last season.
In other coaching-related news around the league:
  • The Raptors were denied permission from the Pelicans to hire Chris Finch as an assistant coach, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. New Raptors coach Nick Nurse was an assistant under Finch on Great Britain’s Olympic team in 2012 and was hoping to bring his well-regarded knowledge of offensive schemes to Toronto, Stein adds in another tweet.
  • The Pelicans did lose one of their assistants as Jamelle McMillan, son of Pacers coach Nate McMillan, joined Igor Kokoskov’s staff with the Suns, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. The younger McMillan is just 29 years old.
  • The Raptors hired Jama Mahlalela as head coach of their NBA G League affiliate, Raptors 905, the team’s media relations department tweets. Mahlalela, who has five years of experience as an NBA assistant, replaces Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse, who led the team to consecutive G League Finals, joined the Grizzlies’ staff after being interviewed for multiple NBA head coaching jobs.

Central Rumors: Bulls, Pacers, McMillan, Cavs

Although the Bulls could have the opportunity to open up a sizable amount of cap room this summer, there has been a sense that the team doesn’t intend to make a big splash in 2018. Chicago is still in its rebuilding stage and isn’t ready to contend quite yet, so saving that cap space for a future offseason makes more sense.

Nonetheless, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested during a Tuesday TV appearance that the Bulls could be “sneaky” in free agency (video link via Rob Lopez of DefPenHoops). According to Wojnarowski, Chicago’s young core is attractive to players around the league, and the team may be accelerating its rebuild.

While the Bulls aren’t likely to make a play for a top veteran free agent like LeBron James or Paul George, they could be worth watching on the restricted free agent market for a player who better fits their timeline, tweets Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • During his appearance on ESPN on Tuesday night, Wojnarowski also suggested that the Pacers may discuss an extension for head coach Nate McMillan this summer (Twitter link via Sagar Trika). McMillan reportedly signed a three-year contract when he joined the team in 2016, so he’d be entering the final year of his deal if there’s no new agreement in place.
  • The Pacers are holding their first pre-draft workout of 2018 on Thursday, according to a team release. Indiana will take a first-hand look at Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure), Marcus Foster (Creighton), Nick King (Middle Tennessee State), Yante Maten (Georgia), Brandon McCoy (UNLV), and Landry Shamet (Wichita State).
  • While Villanova wing Mikal Bridges won’t visit the Cavaliers for an audition, Cleveland’s front office attended an earlier workout for Bridges hosted by agent Rich Paul, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
  • Former Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski, recently hired by the Pistons as a special advisor, spoke to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com about his six-hour interview with team owner Tom Gores.

Pacers Notes: Young, Offseason Outlook, Barton

As we relayed earlier today, Cory Joseph will opt in to his contract for next year, leaving Thaddeus Young as the only Pacers player with a decision to make on a player option for next season. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reports that GM Kevin Pritchard indicated in exit meetings that both Joseph and Young would like to return. As it turns out, he was correct on his assessment of Joseph, and we’ll soon find out whether Young will join Joseph in exercising his player option for 2018/19 worth about $13.8MM.

Michael opines that Young will likely opt out of his salary for the opportunity to sign a long-term contract, while Bobby Marks of ESPN estimates that a starting salary for Young on the open market would likely fall short of his salary for next season should he choose to opt in. Per Marks, Young will need to determine whether the future financial security of a long-term contract with a lower annual salary outweighs earning a higher salary for one season. Ultimately, Marks thinks Young will opt in, leaving the Pacers right at the salary cap come this summer.

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pritchard and the Pacers face an important offseason this summer, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Gone are the days when the Pacers can sneak up on opponents with their new-found success, with head coach Nate McMillan saying, “We won’t go under the radar, so to speak, next season.”
  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com takes a look at the options facing Pritchard and the Pacers’ front office this offseason. The overarching question that must be answered is whether Indiana will risk their new-found positive locker room culture by bringing significant new players or leave the status quo and rely on improvement from young players such as Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.
  • As we touched upon a couple of weeks ago, one potential free agent target for the Pacers could be Nuggets swingman Will Barton, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Pacers Notes: Turner, Collison, GRIII, McMillan

It has been a somewhat disappointing season for third-year center Myles Turner, who was viewed as a strong candidate to have a breakout year for the Pacers following Paul George‘s offseason departure. Instead, Turner has been slowed by health issues and has seen his numbers decline in several offensive categories this year.

Still, as Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star details, Turner has lost the support of “exactly zero” members of the Pacers’ organization, and remains an important building block for the club’s future. Turner will be extension-eligible for the first time during the offseason.

Here’s more on the Pacers, who currently hold the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference:

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com has an in-depth feature on Pacers point guard Darren Collison, who says he feels like he’s been underrated throughout his NBA career. Collison, who has played for five teams in nine NBA seasons, also said he’d like to stick in Indiana a while longer. “I love it here,” Collison said. “If you ask me, I would like to be here a long time. We all know how this business works. You do the best you can and hopefully this is the place. Hopefully I can help these young guys grow.”
  • Currently sidelined with a knee injury, Collison will remain out of action for at least another week, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. The Pacers will get one injured player back though, as Glenn Robinson III is ready to make his season debut after missing several months with an ankle injury. Monteith has the details at Pacers.com.
  • Clifton Brown of The Indianapolis Star lays out the case for why head coach Nate McMillan deserves his share of the credit for the Pacers’ surprising success this season. “Nate’s been brilliant. Our offensive and defensive strategies this year have been terrific,” said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. “Without Nate, we don’t have this. We’re not talking about this. He’s overachieved, and more importantly, he’s put our players in a position where every single night they can succeed.

Larry Bird Explains Decision To Resign

Larry Bird made the decision to step down as president of basketball operations for the Pacers before the season began, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports.

Speaking to reporters today in Indianapolis, Bird said he informed team executives Kevin Pritchard and Peter Dinwiddie that this would be his last season in the position. The move wasn’t health related, Bird said, adding, “It’s a pretty easy decision … It’s just time to go.” (Twitter link).

Bird will remain with the organization as an advisor to Pritchard, the new team president. He plans to do some scouting for the Pacers — at the NBA, college and international levels — and will be a consultant to the upper management team when asked. “The one thing I don’t want to do is get in Kevin’s way,” Bird said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.” (Twitter link)

Bird touched on several other topics during his press conference:

  • He doesn’t believe his decision will have any effect on Paul George‘s future with the team. “I don’t think it should impact it at all,” Bird said. “Paul is going to do what Paul wants to do.” George has a player option for 2018/19, which means he has one more season before he can become a free agent. A Los Angeles native, George is widely believed to be headed to the Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises. Pritchard, who also spoke at today’s event, said he talked to George about his future for nearly an hour last week (Twitter link). The new president said “in every scenario he talked about being here.” (Twitter link).
  • The team’s financial picture didn’t influence Bird’s decision. Indiana heads into the summer with approximately $22MM in cap room and could have about $9MM more if C.J. Miles ($4.77MM) opts out and the team declines its option on Lavoy Allen ($4.3MM). “We’re going to have a better budget, we’re going to be able to do more things,” Bird said (Twitter link). He also praised owner Herb Simon for being committed to building a winner, adding “After looking at next year’s budget, I almost want to stay.” (Twitter link)
  • Bird also had kind words for his successor and jokingly wished Pritchard “good luck” as he took his place at the podium. (Twitter link). “The one thing I always say about Kevin is that you’re going to have a lot of deals on the table,” Bird said, “and you just have to decide which is best.” (Twitter link). Pritchard said his immediate goals are to add toughness and more energy to the team. “I want to get more physical, I want to get tougher,” he said. “I want guys who are completely high energy.” (Twitter link). Pritchard also expressed loyalty to Nate McMillan, who just completed his first season as head coach (Twitter link).

Pacers Notes: Teague, Bird, George

Coach Nate McMillan said Jeff Teague, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to be back with the Pacers next season, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. The coach added that he believes he can get the best out of the point guard. “He needs to be better. I think I can make him better,” McMillan said.

Teague previously said he loves playing for the team. The point guard made $8.8MM last season in the final year of his contract. Teague will likely see a raise on that figure and the Pacers will have upwards of $32MM in cap space, as our Offseason Salary Cap Digest indicates:

  • Larry Bird has an incredible pulse on Pacers and that gives him the ability to make the best moves for the team, as Indiana’s Twitter feed passes along. “Larry [Bird] is at every practice, every game… He knows what this team needs. That was the reason he went out and got Lance [Stephenson],” McMillan said.
  • The Pacers cannot afford to add long-term money in free agency if they feel Paul George will leave next summer, Bobby Marks of The Vertical opines (video link). Indiana doesn’t currently have many long-term commitments and if George leaves, the team can build around Myles Turner and its cap space. However, if the organization makes a few bad signings, the eventual rebuild becomes more difficult.
  • McMillan expects George to return to Indiana next season, as the Indianapolis Star relays (video link). The coach added that he and George both want the same thing and that’s to win.