Pablo Prigioni

Western Notes: Barea, Mavs, Wolves, Unseld, Warriors, Schröder

Jason Kidd, who has reached a deal to become Dallas’ new head coach, may not be the only former Mavericks point guard patrolling the team’s sidelines in 2021/22. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), J.J. Barea has had preliminary discussions about the possibility of joining Kidd’s coaching staff.

Barea has no formal coaching experience, having played in the NBA up until last year and in international leagues during the 2020/21 season. However, as MacMahon observes, the veteran guard has strong relationships with many members of the Mavericks’ organization – including Luka Doncic – and the team missed his presence this past season.

Another member of that 2011 Mavericks title team is also a candidate to join Kidd’s staff, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, who tweets that Jason Terry is in the mix for a role.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves have issued a press release announcing Chris Finch‘s front bench assistants for the 2021/22 season. Joseph Blair and Pablo Prigioni will return, while the team has also added Micah Nori, as was rumored earlier this month. Nori spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach in Detroit.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s been reaching out to teams with head coaching vacancies to advocate for his assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. (Twitter link via Mike Singer of The Athletic). Unseld has been bypassed in past coaching searches, but Malone said he believes that’s “going to change this summer.”
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic weighs what the Warriors could do with the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in this year’s draft, exploring scenarios in which they trade up, move down, or deal one or both of their selections for veteran help.
  • Within a mailbag for The Athletic, Jovan Buha tries to determine what a fair deal for Lakers UFA-to-be Dennis Schröder might look like, suggesting he’d be fine with $20MM per year on a shorter-term contract, but would be hesitant to go that high for four years.

Timberwolves Fire Ryan Saunders, Hire Chris Finch

9:35am: Minnesota has officially announced Finch as its new head coach.

“I would like to thank Glen Taylor and Gersson Rosas for this incredible opportunity to be the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Finch said. “I look forward to working hand and hand with Gersson to build and lead a team that Timberwolves fans will be proud of. We have excellent pieces in place and I can’t wait to get to work.”


5:43am: The Timberwolves have parted ways with head coach Ryan Saunders, the team announced in a press release late on Sunday night. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Saunders’ dismissal.

“We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organization and wish him the best in the future,” Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said in a statement. “These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organization’s short and long-term goals.”

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Wojnarowski, Minnesota already has a replacement lined up for Saunders, having reached a deal to hire Raptors assistant Chris Finch. The two sides are finalizing a multiyear contract that will make him the Wolves’ permanent head coach rather than an interim replacement.

Saunders, who took the reins on Minnesota’s sidelines following Tom Thibodeau‘s exit from the franchise in 2018/19, compiled a 43-94 (.314) record across parts of three seasons with the team. Those Wolves clubs were plagued by injuries, with franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns missing 54 of Saunders’ 137 games with the team, but underperformed even when healthy, finishing 14th in the West a year ago and ranking last in the conference so far this year.

Finch, meanwhile, has interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs in recent years, but will be getting an opportunity to run his own NBA team for the first time. He did have a stint as a G League head coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2009-11 and won an NBAGL title with the club before becoming an assistant for the Rockets from 2011-16. Rosas was part of Houston’s front office during that time, giving him a familiarity with Finch.

Since leaving the Rockets, Finch has been an associate head coach for the Nuggets (2016-17), Pelicans (2017-20), and Raptors (2020-21). He has a reputation of improving teams’ offenses, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic observes.

According to Wojnarowski, Finch is expected to officially begin the job on Tuesday when the Wolves play the Bucks in Milwaukee, and is expected to keep the team’s coaching staff intact for the time being. That staff includes associate head coach David Vanterpool and assistants Bryan Gates and Pablo Prigioni, Woj notes.

Hiring another team’s assistant coach after making an in-season coaching change is fairly unusual for an NBA team, according to Wojnarowski, who says it hasn’t happened since Memphis hired Lionel Hollins away from Milwaukee in 2009. Murphy suggests (via Twitter) that Toronto is probably more likely to promote a coach from the Raptors 905 once the G League season ends than to bring in someone from outside the organization to replace Finch on Nick Nurse‘s staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Timberwolves Notes: Butler, D-Lo, Layman, Gershon

Observing the 2020 postseason ascent of one-time Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler has allowed Patrick Reusse of the Minnesota Star Tribune to glean some perspective on Butler’s old team.

Reusse opines that former Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau‘s instincts were correct in making his 2017 trade with the Bulls to acquire Butler — but that the team erred in signing 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins to a his full five-year, $148MM maximum contract extension. When it became clear that this meant Butler would not be able to get the kind of maximum extension he desired, he forced his way out of Minnesota.

There’s more out of the Gopher State:

  • Point guard-turned-assistant coach Pablo Prigioni could be the key to improving the play of Wolves star point guard D’Angelo Russell, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Prigioni was also a part of the Nets coaching staff when Russell made his lone All-Star appearance for Brooklyn.
  • Wolves forward Jake Layman recently discussed the team’s in-market group practices, which commenced this week. “It has been great,” Layman said, per a team tweet. “I think going over those little things really builds the chemistry on and off the court and that has translated well to playing our 3-on-3 drill and 5-on-5.”
  • As we previously relayed, the Wolves ahead of the 2020 draft will add 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon to their front office. He will serve as a consultant for the team’s draft preparation and player personnel.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Porter Jr., Clarkson, Prigioni

Adding a new starter to the Nuggets lineup via a trade is an unlikely scenario, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Continuity has been one of Denver’s strength and a big trade would force the team to make the pieces fit at a time when other contenders are finding their footing, Kosmider continues. Playing Michael Porter Jr. remains a priority for the organization, Kosmider adds, and in a way he can be considered that major new addition.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Porter got his first start on Sunday due to injuries and thrived, posting 19 points and six rebounds. Porter has already seen action at shooting guard and both forward spots and is learning the plays from all three positions, Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website notes. “It’s tough, but that’s what the great players do,” Porter said. “LeBron (James) knows where everybody on the court is supposed to be at all times, offensively and defensively. So, that’s where I want to be.”
  • Jazz coach Quin Snyder had inquired about and expressed interest in obtaining Jordan Clarkson during the offseason, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune relays. Snyder was intrigued by Clarkson’s shot-making and playmaking despite the guard’s  penchant for freelancing out of the system, Walden adds. Clarkson was acquired from Cleveland a week ago in the first NBA trade since mid-July.
  • Assistant coach and former NBA player Pablo Prigioni has made his mark with Timberwolves players due to his frenetic style, as Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “He takes Red Bull out there or something,” guard Jeff Teague told Hine. “He’s always up and at it, running around. He can run all day, doesn’t get tired. … He’s crazy.”

Wolves Hire Pablo Prigioni As Assistant Coach

Pablo Prigioni will leave the Nets to become an assistant coach with the Timberwolves, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He becomes the second addition to Ryan Saunders‘ staff in two days, joining former Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, who agreed to join the Wolves yesterday.

Prigioni spent four years as an NBA player, including a brief stop in Houston in 2015 while new Minnesota president Gersson Rosas was an executive there. Prigioni will focus mainly on the Wolves’ offense, according to Wojnarowski.

The 42-year-old was a long-time star in Argentina and Europe become coming to the NBA. After retiring in 2016, he became head coach of Baskonia in Spain and joined Brooklyn’s staff prior as a player development coach to the start of this season.

Nets Notes: Atkinson, Assistants, Free Agency

Kenny Atkinson’s obsessive focus on individual player development led to his contract extension, Michael Scotto of The Athletic reports. ESPN reported on Monday that the Nets head coach would receive an extension, which Scotto confirms. Brooklyn is in playoff contention after winning 20 and 28 games the last two seasons.

“He has done arguably as good of a job as any coach in the league when you look at his improvement each year,” swingman Joe Harris said. “Obviously, I’m again biased just because I’m around him day in and day out and I see his approach and his competitiveness, his toughness, what he’s preached to us has trickled down to each one of the guys. He embodies what we are as an organization. We’re obviously not getting to this point without a leader like that.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • Members of Atkinson’s staff received two-year extensions, Scotto tweets. Atkinson’s staff include Bret Brielmaier, Chris Fleming, Jordan Ott, Pablo Prigioni, Jacque Vaughn, Adam Harrington and Travon Bryant.
  • The Nets will be an attractive free agent destination even if their playoff bid comes up short, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Kyrie Irving will give them consideration, a source told Lewis. There’s also a general feeling that free agents respect what Brooklyn has built and the culture around the franchise. “We’ve competed and won enough games this year that they know that all we need is another All-Star, another dynamic player to take the franchise over the top,” forward Ed Davis told Lewis. “I think that’s what those top-tier free agents that’s what goes through their minds. That’s how they think.”
  • Allen Crabbe underwent knee surgery on Thursday, likely ending his disappointing season.

Nets Hire Pablo Prigioni, Tiago Splitter

A pair of former NBA players have joined the Nets’ organization, the team announced today in a press release. Pablo Prigioni has been hired as an assistant coach on Kenny Atkinson‘s staff, while Tiago Splitter had been named a pro scout with additional duties related to on-court player development.

Prigioni, whose hiring was first reported by Brian Lewis of The New York Post, also received interest from the Knicks, with whom he spent two and a half seasons as a player. However, he ultimately chose to join the city’s other NBA team.

The longtime point guard transitioned to coaching after retiring as a player — he was named the head coach of Spanish team Baskonia last summer, but stepped down after just eight games, reportedly due to family issues. In Brooklyn, Prigioni will have an opportunity to work with promising young guards like D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead, and Caris LeVert.

As for Splitter, he announced his retirement as a player due to health issues earlier this year, and had expressed an interest in coaching in the past. While the former Spurs center won’t technically be a member of Atkinson’s staff in Brooklyn, it sounds like he’ll get the opportunity to work with some Nets players in addition to his scouting duties.

New York Notes: Prigioni, Knicks, Ntilikina, Nets

The Knicks are considering a reunion with old friend Pablo Prigioni, but as a developmental coach rather than as a player, two industry sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Prigioni, who played for the Knicks from 2012 to 2015, has retired as a player and was named the coach of Spanish team Baskonia last summer, but had to step down after just eight games due to family issues, a source tells Berman.

Now, Prigioni is back in New York, with a source telling Berman that the former NBA point guard is spending the week with the Nets to learn about Brooklyn’s basketball operation. While it’s unclear whether the Nets are also interested in hiring Prigioni, the 40-year-old is “exploring” whether he wants to become a personnel man, says Berman.

As we wait to see whether Prigioni returns stateside to take a job with one of the NBA’s New York teams, let’s round up a few more notes on those two clubs…

  • New Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is excited to develop alongside rookie Frank Ntilikina, as Berman details for The New York Post. “We’re going to grow together,” Mudiay said. “At least that’s what I know is the plan right now. He’s 19, I’m 21, so we’re both kind of close in age. He speaks French. I speak French. It’s going to be fun, just trying to see how we feel each other out on the court.”
  • Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report outlines why the two trades the Knicks made last week are representative of GM Scott Perry‘s plan for the franchise. Weitzman also cites league sources who say that the Knicks turned away numerous trade proposals for Ntilikina prior to last Thursday’s deadline.
  • The Nets‘ acquisition of Dante Cunningham last week was a move that flew under the radar, but GM Sean Marks says he expects Cunningham to fill a key positional need in Brooklyn. Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com has the story.

And-Ones: Saunders, Gordon, Prigioni

It’s been two years since Timberwolves icon Flip Saunders, then the franchise’s president of basketball operations, passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The man’s impact on the organization is still felt to this day, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

Saunders played a vital role in the club’s recent return to relevance both from a business and personnel perspective. The celebrated executive’s touch can be seen at all levels of the organization from the new practice facility that Saunders helped design to the transactions he made in the wake of David Kahn‘s time at the helm from 2009 to 2013.

Saunders remains the only head coach in franchise history to lead the team to the playoffs, having done so eight times from 1997-2004 during his first run with the franchise. Since 2006, the team has cracked a .400 win percentage only once.

I made a promise to Flip Saunders that we would win and end the playoff drought,” current franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns said on the media day of his rookie season shortly before Saunders passed. “And I intend to keep that promise.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Former NBA player Ben Gordon has run into trouble with the law, Jonathan Bandler of The Journal News writes. The 34-year-old wasn’t ultimately charged following a confrontation between himself and a woman at his business but police were called to the scene and he was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation.
  • The journey into the business world continues for Kobe Bryant. As Darren Rovell of ESPN writes, Bryant has approached his investments with the same obsessiveness that he did his NBA career.
  • Retired NBA guard Pablo Prigioni is stepping down from his role as the head coach of Liga ACB team Baskonia, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando writes. The team has gotten off to a rocky start and it’s said that Prigioni has lost control of the situation.

Pacific Notes: Wilcox, Reed, Looney, Warriors

Neither Pablo Prigioni nor C.J. Wilcox currently has an NBA contract, with Prigioni transitioning to coaching and Wilcox having agreed to a two-way deal with the Trail Blazers. However, before Wilcox reached an agreement with Portland, it appeared he may reunite with Prigioni, who was his teammate with the Clippers during the 2015/16 season.

As international basketball reporter David Pick details (via Twitter), Prigioni – now the head coach of Baskonia in Spain – had been recruiting his former Clippers teammate in the hopes of signing him to a $500K contract. Wilcox will earn less than that on his new two-way deal, so remaining stateside and getting the opportunity to see a little NBA action was likely a key factor in his decision.

Here’s more on the Clips and their Pacific rivals:

  • New Clippers center Willie Reed was charged on Sunday with misdemeanor domestic battery, but his wife has issued a statement through her attorney saying she doesn’t want to press charges against her husband, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “This incident has been totally blown out of proportion. I did not call the police and I did not ask anyone to call the police on my behalf. Willie is a good man and a great father. I have no intention of pressing charges and I have asked the authorities to immediately dismiss all charges against Willie,” Jasmine Reed said in her statement. Willie Reed’s arraignment is currently scheduled for September 8.
  • In a piece for The Athletic, Danny Leroux examines the Warriors‘ options for their 15th man, exploring whether the club should simply keep Kevon Looney or go in another direction with that final roster spot.
  • The Warriors earned the No. 1 spot on David Aldridge’s list of offseason rankings, as he details in a piece for NBA.com. Aldridge’s list is based on each team’s summer roster moves, rather than its overall roster strength, so the Kings and Lakers rank in his top 10 as well.