Nick Nurse

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Fizdale, Load Management

Brad Stevens‘s new-look Celtics are off to their best start in his tenure as head coach, with a sterling 5-1 record. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines that the Celtics’ winning ways are attributable to five key factors: an easy connection with new point guard Kemba Walker; strong second halves on offense and defense; a relative dearth of contract drama; no idle chatter of Stevens mulling a return to the NCAA; and Stevens’ willingness for self-reflection following the disappointment of the 2018/19 Celtics.

Here’s tonight’s full run-down of Atlantic notes:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post posits that it’s way too early for Knicks head coach David Fizdale to be on the coaching hot seat. Though the Knicks are tied with the Zion Williamson-free Pelicans at a league-worst 1-6 record, Berman suggests that the front office duo of Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have saddled Fizdale with a head-scratching assortment of talent, heavy on mediocre frontcourt pieces but light on outside shooting or clutch end-of-game leadership.
  • In a piece for The Athletic, Frank Isola supports Fizdale’s staunch defense of playing promising Knicks rookie RJ Barrett extended minutes, an argument echoed by former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and by Barrett himself. “Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe by playing Barrett a lot of minutes David Fizdale is advancing Barrett’s career forward?,” Van Gundy said to Isola. “Is there anyone who really believes that the way you get better is by not playing and by not practicing?”
  • On the other side of the wins-losses spectrum, the Raptors appear to be taking a similar approach to the struggling Knicks when it comes to one hot-button health topic. “I don’t really see much point in (load management) right now for anyone we’ve got,” head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.Kyle [Lowry] will be somebody maybe we do something with down the road, maybe Marc [Gasol] as well. But it’s not really in the forefront of my mind this year like it was last year.” The Raptors famously conserved the play of eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard last season. 33-year-old Lowry is currently leading the league with a heavy 38.8 minutes played per game, while backcourt mate Fred VanVleet is logging 37.8 minutes a night.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Anunoby, Bench

Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes how the Raptors locking up Pascal Siakam to a long-term extension may be a byproduct of how the Spurs ended up losing Kawhi Leonard, the player that helped the Raptors win the franchise’s first ever championship last season.

Like Leonard when he was in San Antonio, Siakam was destined for a maximum contract after the Raptors won last season’s title. Like San Antonio had then, Toronto has plenty of cap space this upcoming summer.

Unlike the Spurs, the Raptors didn’t wait to lock up Siakam. As Koreen writes, they want him around and they want him happy. The long-term benefits outweigh the short term repercussion of less cap space.

There’s more this afternoon from Toronto:

  • Per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, forward OG Anunoby, in a rare podium session, says that he lost 15 pounds following the rupture of his appendix just as last season’s magical postseason run got underway.
  • Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet provides some more details on the incentives in the rookie-scale contract extension signed by Siakam, writing that the 25-year-old forward will receive a starting salary worth up to 30% of the cap (not the typical 25%) if he earns First or Second Team All-NBA or is named the MVP this season. That would make Siakam’s four-year extension worth as much as a projected $155.9MM instead of $129.9MM.
  • Head coach Nick Nurse still appears to be rather displeased with some of his newly-signed bench players, reports William Lou of Yahoo Sports Canada. Nurse lauded Stanley Johnson for his defense and effort and Matt Thomas for his offense, but seemed less than enthusiastic about the other side of the ball for both players.

World Cup Notes: Brown, Canada, Rubio

Jaylen Brown has stepped up for Team USA since Jayson Tatum went down with an ankle injury. The Celtics wing has played in the frontcourt for USA Basketball, excelling in an unfamiliar spot.

“I feel like I’m not a position player, I’m a basketball player. 4-3-2, whatever coach needs me to do, I will make the adjustment,” Brown said (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com). “Obviously with Jayson out, there’s a little more opportunity and maybe it was a little more visible. But every time I take the floor, I want to be aggressive.”

Here’s more from the FIBA World Cup:

  • Coach Nick Nurse doesn’t see many changes for the Canadian National Team next summer in the Olympics, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet relays. The team has a core of veteran players but could see prospects like RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander break through next summer.
  • Thunder guard Dennis Schroder has impressed during international play, as Erik Horne of the Oklahoman writes. Germany was eliminated in the first round after losing its first two games by a total of six points, but the point guard helped the country win three consecutive games to close the tournament (the team’s final first-round game and two consolation contests).
  • Cody Cunningham of NBA.com breaks down Ricky Rubio‘s 2019 FIBA World Cup. The point guard has helped Spain reach the semi-finals.

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: Stevens, Feaster, Donaldson, Ainge

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will have a new-look roster to work with this season, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, and while replacing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving with fellow All-Star Kemba Walker will be the easy part, replacing defensive stalwarts Al Horford and Aron Baynes should prove a bit more challenging.

Another question is who starts — Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown? Do both of them start, with Marcus Smart back on the bench? According to Stevens, it really doesn’t matter, as long as the lineups mesh together.

“We’re obviously going to have to figure out lineups that work best together,” Stevens said. “Everybody is going to make a big deal over who starts, but we all know who the five guys are that are going to play the very most on our team, and everybody can probably write that down right now, and then it’s a matter of who fits best. They’re not all in the same position, but we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play the big spot and with which groups.”

Enes Kanter figures to get most minutes at center starting out, but young big Robert Williams could push for more playing time as the season progresses. The Celtics will also rely on Daniel Theis and Vincent Poirier for frontcourt depth.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, the Celtics have hired Allison Feaster as director of player development. Feaster is a former WNBA player and Harvard graduate who also worked in the G League.
  • Raptors data analyst Brittni Donaldson has been promoted to an assistant coach on the staff of head coach Nick Nurse, per a tweet from Stadium (Twitter link).
  • In a piece for NBC Sports Boston, Blakely writes that Danny Ainge is concerned with Stevens happiness this season, saying “My biggest concern through all of this was, I want my coach to be happy who he’s coaching and that’s the hardest job. I’ve been at this business a long time. It’s…you gotta have fun. You really have to have joy. That doesn’t mean every minute is going to be happy. Everybody is going to face adversity and challenges and trials through the course of a season. But, it still has to be fun.”

World Cup Notes: Nurse, Team USA, Mills, Scola

Team Canada coach Nick Nurse is frustrated by the lack of commitment from the nation’s top stars, according to a Canadian Press report (link via Sportsnet.ca). The Canadians had a disappointing performance in this year’s World Cup, being relegated to the classification round rather than fighting for a medal or an Olympic berth. Seventeen NBA players were invited to Canada’s training camp, but Cory Joseph and Khem Birch are the only ones representing the country in China.

“I see it as a really interesting unique time in Canada basketball,” Nurse said. “The talent’s really pouring out, the young talent continues to pour out, the Raptors had a pretty good season, the fan base, the people are interested all over the country in basketball, I think it’s an important time for a group of six, eight, 10 guys to stick together for five or six years.”

Eight of the 12 berths for next year’s Olympics will have been decided once the World Cup ends, leaving Canada with an uphill fight to qualify. They will have to win one of four second-chance tournaments next summer, but they’ll likely be given a low seed because they didn’t advance at the World Cup. Former Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer agrees that a unified effort is necessary.

“It’s building that cohesion, and even for myself as a player, I didn’t really know what to expect because we brought in a new coach and with that comes a new system,” he said, “and if we have to play next year guys like Cory, Khem, me, we know the system now, we feel comfortable in it.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Team USA had its best performance of the tournament in today’s win over Greece, and much of the credit should go to Gregg Popovich and his staff for devising a plan to control Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Even though Antetokounmpo posted 15 points and 13 rebounds, he wasn’t the dominant force that Greece needed and wound up sitting out the entire fourth quarter to rest for Monday’s game. “Everything is always a compilation of experiences. Obviously we’ve seen him play, and he’s a great player,” Popovich said. “It’s a little bit of everything. Overall we did a good job of being active.”
  • Australia’s Patty Mills transforms from sixth man to superstar in international competition, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. He’s the top scorer among teams that advanced past the first group stage.
  • Luis Scola, the last link to Argentina’s “golden generation,” has remained productive at age 39, Devine observes. Scola averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game as Argentina cruised through Group B with a 3-0 record.

And-Ones: World Cup, China, Thabeet

In a special piece for ESPN, Mark Woods takes an in-depth look (link) at all 32 teams vying to win the 2019 FIBA World Cup, which will be decided in Beijing on September 15, two weeks from today.

While recognizing that Team USA is the favorite, Woods does not have the Americans taking home the championship. His group winners include host nation China and the aforementioned U.S., in addition to Argentina, Spain, Serbia, Greece, France, and Australia.

Woods believes that all but two of the group winners will reach the quarterfinals, with Nigeria and Lithuania, finishing second in group play to Argentina and Australia respectively, replacing group winners France and China among the final eight teams.

Ultimately, Woods sees Team USA falling short of the championship game, with Australia falling to Serbia in the final. Be sure to tell us what you think in one of our latest Community Shootaround posts, here.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Chinese Basketball Association is implementing a new guideline barring a player who is serving a drug or violence-related ban/suspension in another league from signing in the CBA. As Charania notes, the rule would prohibit someone like Tyreke Evans from signing with a team in the CBA.
  • After losing their first game in the 2019 FIBA World Cup to Matthew Dellavedova and Australia, Canada head coach Nick Nurse told the media that his team will have to play “extraordinary basketball” to beat Lithuania on Tuesday and advance past group play, per Lithuanian basketball reporter Donatas Urbonas (h/t to Sportando).
  • After working out for the Knicks once already (link), former No, 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet will continue to play in 5-on-5 scrimmages with the Knicks next week, reports Ian Begley of SportsNet New York. Begley adds that Thabeet will also work out a second time for the Bucks in about a week’s time.

World Cup Notes: Joseph, Spain, Teodosic, Rankings

Is guard Cory Joseph in or out of the FIBA World Cup for Team Canada? Joseph, the most prominent NBA member remaining on the depleted Team Canada roster, was withdrawing from the competition, according to a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith. However, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse said that report was incorrect and that Joseph would indeed join the team in China, John Casey of 7Olympics tweets.

Joseph is not currently with the team during exhibition games in Australia and Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange notes that Joseph would have to leave for China soon, given that the tournament begins in 10 days and he needs to adjust to the 12-hour time difference (Twitter link).

We have more World Cup news:

World Cup Notes: Popovich, Nurse, Serbia

Anyone who has watched the Spurs frequently will see plenty of similarities in this year’s version of Team USA, writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Head coach Gregg Popovich has incorporated his system into the international squad that will be competing for gold at the FIBA World Cup tournament.

With so many elite players declining invitations to training camp, Popovich has far less star power than his predecessor, Mike Krzyzewski. It’s a situation familiar to San Antonio since the decline of the Tim DuncanTony ParkerManu Ginobili era.

“We’ll up our assist total even more than what you saw tonight as we become more familiar with each other and feel more comfortable with the system,” Popovich said after Friday’s first public scrimmage. “(On defense), there’s been absolutely no problem with the effort and the physicality. It’s just a matter of getting wiser and more habitual.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • The chance to play for Popovich was among the perks for the players who decided to participate, relays Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. Few of them have ever worked with Popovich, who is regarded as one of the best coaches in NBA history. “He’s my favorite coach of all time,” Kyle Kuzma said. “Growing up, I was a hoops junkie, watching a lot of the Spurs teams and he’s won at every level he’s been at. So, to be here and learn, to be around him, it’s really great.” Several others agreed, with Brook Lopez saying, “It’s always been a dream” and Jaylen Brown adding, “Playing for Gregg Popovich, I’ll do that any day of the week.”
  • Fresh off winning a title in his first year as an NBA head coach, Nick Nurse is now trying to capture a medal for Canada, notes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The Canadians have a busy exhibition schedule before World Cup play begins. “I don’t know how to explain this. It’s more like what these games do is, they present a lot of teaching moments,” Nurse said. “Like when you see an opponent, now you’re seeing something you haven’t even covered yet, so you’ve got a chance to teach it and grow your schemes and your defensive package.”
  • Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic doesn’t consider Team USA the favorites in this year’s tournament, according to a EuroHoops story. Serbia’s roster includes All-Star center Nikola Jokic, along with several other names familiar to NBA fans such as Bogdan BogdanovicNemanja Bjelica, Miroslav Raduljica, Boban Marjanovic and Milos Teodosic“Let’s let them (Team USA) play their basketball and we will play ours and if we meet, may God help them,” Djordjevic said.