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Cavs Notes: Erden, Irving, Parker, Varejao

Three-day rests don't come along often in this lockout-shortened season, so the Cavaliers likely took full advantage of the time off they received this week. As the Cavs prepare to host Indiana tonight in their first game since Saturday, let's round up a few items out of Cleveland…

  • Anderson Varejao's injury has given Semih Erden a "golden opportunity" to show what he can do, coach Byron Scott tells Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.  Erden will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season.
  • Scott doesn't understand why people think Cleveland should lose games, writes Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio. The Cavs' coach would prefer to earn a postseason berth, even if it meant a quick first-round exit, because he feels his young players would benefit from the playoff experience.
  • Amico fielded Cavs-related questions, including plenty on possible trades, in a chat earlier today.
  • Kyrie Irving has been cleared by the team to return to action tonight after missing three games with a concussion, tweets Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com. Anthony Parker is also progressing and could return next week, but there's still no timetable for Varejao (Beacon Journal link).

Nets Coaching Turnover Under Mikhail Prokhorov

No team has had more head coaches than the Nets have during Mikhail Prokhorov’s time as owner, even though Prokhorov downplayed the coaching turnover in Monday’s press conference that followed the Sunday firing of Lionel Hollins and installation of assistant coach Tony Brown as his interim replacement. Brown is the fifth head coach to have served under Prokhorov, joining Hollins, Jason Kidd, P.J. Carlesimo and Avery Johnson. The owner elected not retain Kiki Vandeweghe when he hired Johnson shortly after formally buying the team in 2010, so in some sense, Prokhorov has had six coaches.

Andy Vasquez of The Record cited six when he asked Prokhorov whether his new coach could be secure in his job, as Brian Fleurantin notes in his full transcription of the press conference for NetsDaily. Prokhorov responded that he only dismissed two coaches, since Kidd left of his own volition in 2014 and Carlesimo was an interim replacement for Johnson. Vandeweghe was also an interim coach, though it was the team’s decision not to retain him, just as it was with Carlesimo.

In any case, only the Kings, Lakers and Pistons have had as many head coaches as the Nets have since the start of 2010/11, Prokhorov’s first full season as owner. That includes interim coaches but not substitute coaches, like Luke Walton of the Warriors and Joe Prunty of the Bucks, since they’re serving because their respective head coaches are ailing, not because their teams decided to make a change.

Here’s a breakdown of every team’s coaching turnover since 2010/11:

Five coaches

  • Kings — (Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Michael Malone, Tyrone Corbin, George Karl)
  • Lakers — (Phil Jackson, Mike Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff, Mike D’Antoni, Byron Scott)
  • Nets — (Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Tony Brown)
  • Pistons — (John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks, John Loyer, Stan Van Gundy)

Four coaches

  • Bucks — (Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan, Larry Drew, Jason Kidd)
  • Hornets — (Larry Brown, Paul Silas, Mike Dunlap, Steve Clifford)
  • Magic — (Stan Van Gundy, Jacque Vaughn, James Borrego, Scott Skiles)
  • Nuggets — (George Karl, Brian Shaw, Melvin Hunt, Michael Malone)
  • Timberwolves — (Kurt Rambis, Rick Adelman, Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell)

Three coaches

  • Cavs — (Mike Brown, Byron Scott, David Blatt)
  • Jazz — (Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, Quin Snyder)
  • Knicks — (Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher)
  • Rockets — (Rick Adelman, Kevin McHale, J.B. Bickerstaff)
  • Suns — (Alvin Gentry, Lindsey Hunter, Jeff Hornacek)
  • Trail Blazers — (Nate McMillan, Kaleb Canales, Terry Stotts)
  • Warriors — (Keith Smart, Mark Jackson, Steve Kerr)

Two coaches

  • Bulls — (Tom Thibodeau, Fred Hoiberg)
  • Celtics — (Doc Rivers, Brad Stevens)
  • Clippers — (Vinny Del Negro, Doc Rivers)
  • Grizzlies — (Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger)
  • Hawks — (Larry Drew, Mike Budenholzer)
  • Pacers — (Jim O’Brien, Frank Vogel)
  • Pelicans — (Monty Williams, Alvin Gentry)
  • Raptors — (Jay Triano, Dwane Casey)
  • Sixers — (Doug Collins, Brett Brown)
  • Thunder — (Scott Brooks, Billy Donovan)
  • Wizards — (Flip Saunders, Randy Wittman)

One coach

  • Heat — (Erik Spoelstra)
  • Mavericks — (Rick Carlisle)
  • Spurs — (Gregg Popovich)

Longest-Tenured NBA Head Coaches

Byron Scott is the NBA’s newest coach after the Lakers officially announced his hiring Monday evening, and while that distinction will no doubt carry into the season, it won’t last too much longer. Michael Malone of the Kings was the NBA’s latest coaching hire when Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors last checked in on the league’s longest-tenured coaches on June 4th of last year, and now Malone has been around longer than nearly half of his peers.

There have been 14 additions to this list since last time. That doesn’t include three entire coaching tenures that have come and gone: Jason Kidd with the Nets, Maurice Cheeks with the Pistons, and John Loyer, who served in an interim capacity after he replaced Cheeks in February. Kidd is on this list, but in his new capacity as coach of the Bucks. Lionel Hollins, Kidd’s successor in Brooklyn, and Scott are already behind Kidd, even though Kidd has officially been with the Bucks for less than a month. Larry Drew, whom Kidd replaced in Milwaukee, had only been on the job a few days when Luke compiled last year’s list.

The No. 1 spot remains unchanged, and on-court results demonstrate the virtue of patience. Gregg Popovich, who signed an extension earlier this summer after winning his fifth NBA title, remains the dean of NBA head coaches. Right behind him is Erik Spoelstra, the coach he’s faced in the last two NBA Finals. The top three spots are occupied by the last three coaches to win championships, and Nos. 1-4 are the only coaches to take part in the Finals since 2011.

  1. Gregg Popovich, Spurs: December 1996
  2. Erik Spoelstra, Heat: April 2008
  3. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks: May 2008
  4. Scott Brooks, Thunder: November 2008 (interim; permanent since April 2009)
  5. Monty Williams, Pelicans: June 2010
  6. Tom Thibodeau, Bulls: June 2010
  7. Frank Vogel, Pacers: January 2011 (interim; permanent since July 2011)
  8. Kevin McHale, Rockets: June 2011
  9. Dwane Casey, Raptors: June 2011
  10. Randy Wittman, Wizards: January 2012 (interim; permanent since June 2012)
  11. Jacque Vaughn, Magic: July 2012
  12. Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers: August 2012
  13. Jeff Hornacek, Suns: May 2013
  14. Mike Budenholzer, Hawks: May 2013
  15. Steve Clifford, Bobcats: May 2013
  16. Michael Malone, Kings: June 2013
  17. Dave Joerger, Grizzlies: June 2013
  18. Brian Shaw, Nuggets: June 2013
  19. Doc Rivers, Clippers: June 2013
  20. Brad Stevens, Celtics: July 2013
  21. Brett Brown, Sixers: August 2013
  22. Stan Van Gundy, Pistons: May 2014
  23. Steve Kerr, Warriors: May 2014
  24. Flip Saunders, Timberwolves: June 2014
  25. Quin Snyder, Jazz: June 2014
  26. Derek Fisher, Knicks: June 2014
  27. David Blatt, Cavs: June 2014
  28. Jason Kidd, Bucks: July 2014
  29. Lionel Hollins, Nets: July 2014
  30. Byron Scott, Lakers: July 2014

Eastern Notes: Varejao, Pietrus, Celtics

Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao received as good a vote of confidence as one can get from head coach Byron Scott, who called the Brazilian big man "the best center in the NBA right now." Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio writes that Varejao's statistical production makes Scott's statement a difficult one to disagree with, also mentioning that some fans have wondered if Cleveland should take advantage of his value and trade him. With that being said, Amico asserts that Cavaliers brass currently has no intention of dealing their most tenured veteran. For the rest of tonight's tidbits from the Eastern Conference, you can find them below: 

  • Bill McCandless, the agent of Mickael Pietrus, told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com about the other teams that that had been under consideration while they had waited for the right opportunity in free agency. Whereas the Rockets and Timberwolves were potential destinations in the West, McCandless listed the Bulls and Hawks as the other Eastern Conference teams which had been in the hunt along with Toronto.
  • Celtics coach Doc Rivers offered a poignant comment about Rajon Rondo and the current state of his team, telling reporters: “I don’t know if I want to rally around my 6-foot guard being the enforcer. That’s nice but at the end of the day, if that’s the threat you’re sending, the other team has to feel [good]" (Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com reports). Although we heard Rivers say earlier that the team is in no rush to make any changes to the roster, Petraglia hypothetically mentioned Kenyon Martin as a possible target if Boston decided to look into free agency for help. 
  • Aside from wanting rookie guard Maalik Wayns to become a more accomplished defender, 76ers coach Doug Collins likes the direction of his development, writes Mark Narducci of Philly.com
  • Jodie Valade of the Plain Dealer points out that Zydrunas Ilgauskas was at the Cavaliers' practice facility on Thursday to help Byron Scott teach forward Tristan Thompson about making quicker decisions and moves offensively to counter shotblockers. 
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer (also of the Plain Dealer) discusses the challenge that Danny Ferry faces in building the Hawks into a playoff contender, just as he had done in Cleveland from 2005 to 2010.  
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes that Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has taken notice of Jeff Taylor's development as the rookie has stepped in to fill the void left by Gerald Henderson's injury. In another article, Bonnell mentions that the continued lobbying of New Orleans Hornets owners to rebrand their franchise could mean an opportunity for Charlotte to re-acquire the Hornets nickname. 
  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times discusses Tyson Chandler's offensive efficiency as of late, noting that the 7'1 Knicks center is averaging a career best in points (12.0 PPG) and leading the league in field goal percentage at 71.8%. 

Community Shootaround: Luke Walton’s Job Security

With the Lakers spiraling out of control and their hopes of making the playoffs starting to diminish, the job security of head coach Luke Walton is a topic that’s expected to be discussed in the coming weeks.

Walton, who’s in his third season as Lakers head coach, was originally hired by the team in April of 2016 to replace Byron Scott. As Marc Stein of the New York Times noted in a recent story, many figures around the league have questioned whether Walton will keep his job after such a disappointing season in Los Angeles.

“The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless,” Stein wrote in his article.

The Lakers were widely expected to be a playoff team upon bringing in LeBron James to a promising young core last July, but various injuries to James, Lonzo Ball and others are partially to blame for this derailed season. The team has halted conversations with Carmelo Anthony‘s representatives and are said to be seeking a veteran center on the open market, leaving some league observers confused with their current direction.

Los Angeles currently holds the 11th-best record in the Western Conference at 30-35, 6.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Clippers with 17 contests left in the season. They recorded their fourth straight loss at the hands of Denver on Wednesday night.

Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported Thursday that the team agreed to a soft 28-to-32 minutes restriction with James that could result in him sitting on the second end of back-to-backs, a sign of the team knowing the postseason is effectively out of reach. Should the blame of this disappointing season fall squarely on the shoulders of coach Walton?

Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts!

NBA Likely To Keep Target Score Ending For All-Star Game

The NBA will probably use a target score again in next year’s All-Star Game, president of league operations Byron Spruell tells Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Based on the “Elam Ending,” the concept got rave reviews for bringing excitement and intensity to the end of this year’s game, which Team LeBron won 157-155 over Team Giannis. Spruell said the league hasn’t officially approved anything for next season, but there is strong sentiment for keeping the format.

After the third quarter of Sunday’s game, a target score was set at 24 points above the score of the team with the lead. There was no clock for the final quarter and the game continued until one team reached that mark.

Spruell said the original plan was to set the target score 38 points above the third quarter total, which has been the average fourth-quarter score per team since the current All-Star format was adopted. That figure was later reduced to 35 and then to 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant. Spruell said next year’s total will probably be higher, even though this year’s fourth quarter took 39 minutes to play and stretched over the equivalent of 15 minutes of game time. A television timeout is also being considered, and the rules may be adjusted so the game can’t end on a free throw.

The Elam Ending has been popularized through a pair of summer ventures, The Basketball Tournament and The BIG3 League. Chris Paul, president of the players’ union, coached a team in TBT last year and suggested it as a way to make the All-Star Game more competitive. Its debut received an overwhelmingly positive response.

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in.”

He added that consideration will be given to bringing the target score to the G League, but was pessimistic about its implementation. The NBA wants G League games to resemble its own as much as possible to serve as a training ground for players, coaches and referees.

Spruell said NBA officials will discuss adopting the target score for elimination rounds of a proposed mid-season tournament, adding that a Board of Governors vote on that and a play-in tournament for the bottom two playoff spots in each conference could happen in September.

NBA Changing All-Star Game Format, Adding Kobe Tribute

Having made changes in recent years to the way that All-Star rosters are built, the NBA is now tweaking the format of the All-Star Game itself, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The league has confirmed the news in a press release.

As Reynolds explains, each of the first three quarters will essentially function as its own mini-game, with the score reset to 0-0 at the start of the second quarter and again at the start of the third quarter. The team that wins each of those quarters will earn $100K (up to $300K in total) for a Chicago-area charity of its choosing.

At the start of the fourth quarter, according to Reynolds, the cumulative game score will be restored and the team that’s ahead will need to score 24 more points to win the game, a tribute to Kobe Bryant‘s uniform number. For instance, if Team LeBron is leading Team Giannis by a 100-90 margin after three quarters, the first team to 124 points would win the game — and an additional $200K for its charity. Unlike the first three quarters, the final quarter will be untimed.

According to Reynolds, the idea of a target score at the end of the game – a variation of The Basketball Tournament’s “Elam Ending” – is something NBPA president Chris Paul has suggested in the past. The hope is that it will make the game more competitive, since there will be something at stake in each quarter and the losing team will be more incentivized to make defensive stops as the target score nears.

“We’ve been very focused on making it more competitive, making it more exciting and making it fun,” NBA president for league operations Byron Spruell said of the All-Star Game, per Reynolds. “And we’ve had a great collaboration with the union. For this year’s game, we really focused on what new things we could do to make it a really competitive game where each quarter mattered in this case.”

Tying the target score to Bryant’s number is just one of a number of tributes the NBA has planned for All-Star weekend, as the league honors Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and the seven others who died in Sunday’s helicopter crash in California.

According to Reynolds, the format change is just a one-year experiment for now. However, the NBA is hoping that both the quarter-score for charity aspect and the target-score ending will become fixtures in future All-Star Games.

And-Ones: Buyouts, Referees, Lorenzo Brown, Lottery

Some team executives have proposed changing the buyout process that favors successful organizations, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. That inequity was on display this week as the Cavaliers added Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut and the Warriors picked up Matt Barnes after Kevin Durant was injured.

Possible solutions include moving the date that players have to be waived to retain postseason eligibility to before the trade deadline or creating a “buyout wire.” The wire would allow teams with cap room to bid on players who get bought out, with the highest bidder winning regardless of the players’ wishes. Early Bird rights could even be tied to this system to encourage more bidding, Lowe states. If there are no bidders, then teams over the cap would be allowed to pursue the players, possibly in reverse order of record.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA announced several initiatives Thursday to improve the quality of officiating, relays Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. The league will introduce an Officiating Advisory Council and will expand the number of referees from 64 to at least 70 next season. There are also plans to change their travel schedule and the system of evaluation. Overseas officials will be among those considered for NBA jobs. “Twenty-five percent of our players now are international or not born in the U.S., so why shouldn’t we try to match some of that in terms of talent coming from international flavor into the ref population as well?” said Byron Spruell, the president of league operations.
  • Lorenzo Brown, who has played for three teams in three NBA seasons, has signed a contract with the D-League, tweets Chris Reichert of The Step Back. The Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit’s affiliate, owns the rights to the 26-year old point guard, who had been playing in China. Brown spent eight games with the Suns last season. He has also played for the Sixers and Wolves.
  • Joel Brighham of Basketball Insiders examines whether teams on the postseason bubble are better off making the playoffs or getting a lottery pick.

Western Notes: Russell, Walton, Landry

Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell and former coach Byron Scott did not have a good relationship last season, but the second year player has nothing but raves for new head coach Luke Walton, as he told Serena Winters of LakersNation. “He’s one of the best people I know, as far as off the court,” Russell said of Walton. “We communicate on and off the court as much as possible. I feel like I can call him anytime. He’s not like a head coach that will sit back and just watch his other coaches and colleagues just train other players, he’s always involved. He’ll get out there and play with you if he wants. It’s just great to have a young coach like him in the building.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Spurs have a number of new faces on their bench heading into the season and the players are still trying to get to know each other and build chemistry, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes. “We’re still trying to figure out some guys’ first and last names,” said Jonathon Simmons. “In another week, everything should be coming together.” San Antonio is also trying to fill a major leadership void now that Tim Duncan has retired, McDonald adds. Speaking about the players’ offseason practice and workout sessions, Kyle Anderson said, “Some days [in the past], they’d [the coaching staff] leave it up to Tim to run it. It’s a little weird without him there.”
  • In a recent chat where he answered reader questions, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News opined that rookie small forward Nicolas Brussino‘s upside makes him a player worth watching this season for the Mavs. The scribe did note that how well the 23-year-old from Argentina will adapt to the American style of play remains a major question mark.
  • The Rockets, Spurs, Lakers and Pacers are among the teams who are interested in Carl Landry, who was waived by the Sixers this week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Lakers Notes: Shaw, Ingram, Scott

The Lakers are nearing a deal with Brian Shaw to become the team’s lead assistant coach on Luke Walton’s staff, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Walton always wanted Shaw to be the lead assistant on his staff, Turner adds (Twitter link). Walton played for the Lakers and Shaw was an assistant coach for the team during Los Angeles’ two most recent NBA championships.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Brandon Ingram’s drive to be great and his dedication to winning have impressed the Lakers‘ brass, sources tell Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. The Lakers won’t likely have a choice between Ingram and Ben Simmons, as Philadelphia is expected to take one of the two. Sixers coach Brett Brown recently said that the team isn’t leaning toward taking any particular player at No. 1.
  • If the Lakers had a choice between Simmons and Ingram, Ingram should be the pick because he fits the team better, several league executives tell Mark Medina of the the Orange County Register. Medina also speculated that the team will discuss trading the pick to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins or Indiana for Paul George.
  • Former coach Byron Scott said the Lakers were seriously considering taking Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 2 overall pick last year, but Porzingis’ conditioning during his workout with the team was the reason for passing on the big man, as Scott told Dan Patrick on his radio show (h/t Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post). Scott added that once he saw Porzingis in the Summer League that year, he knew the rookie was going be “pretty good.”

Western Notes: Lakers, Kings, Jazz, Mavs

Byron Scott said that the week before the Lakers fired him as coach, he met with GM Mitch Kupchak to talk about free agent targets, current Lakers players and the draft, believing the visit was a signal that the team would keep him for at least one more year, as Scott told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. The timing of the Sunday night meeting in which Kupchak informed Scott of his fate seemed odd to the coach as he made his way to it, but it wasn’t until the GM delivered the news to him that he suspected he was out of a job, as Bresnahan details. Scott added that he’s disappointed but wants to coach again and still has affection for the Lakers franchise.

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Vlade Divac said Tuesday that DeMarcus Cousins needs rules and structure, but the hiring of player-friendly Dave Joerger as coach doesn’t jibe with that, observes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Still, the Kings found Joerger’s postseason experience with the Grizzlies his most attractive asset, and Divac, who said he won’t trade Cousins this year, insisted the days of constant turmoil are over in Sacramento, Voisin writes.
  • The Jazz will work out Idaho State junior point guard Ethan Telfair on Tuesday, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Still, Telfair is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft and return to college ball before the May 25th deadline for him to do so, according to Goodman. The 6’0″ 21-year-old who’s the younger brother of NBA veteran Sebastian Telfair is outside the top 100 prospects on the lists that Chad Ford of ESPN.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress compile.
  • The Mavericks aren’t one player away from title contention, as The Vertical’s Bobby Marks opines, so they should avoid handing out a max contract in a weak market this summer and focus instead on upgrading the bench with young players who have potential, Marks writes. Dallas is without a first-round pick in this year’s draft and has only one second-round pick, at No. 46.

Lakers Notes: Clarkson, Scott, Walton

Jordan Clarkson, who is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, strongly wants to re-sign with the Lakers after the team hired Luke Walton as coach, Jovan Buha of ESPN.com relays. “It really impacts it a lot,” Clarkson told Buha. “That style of play fits me, as well as the other guys. I definitely want to stay here in L.A. and be here. I said in my exit interview, I don’t want to be that guy who bounces around from team to team. I want to be here in L.A. — a place where I can call home — and leave a legacy. The hiring makes it even better.” Clarkson made $845,059 this year, and L.A. must make a $3.2MM qualifying offer to retain the right to match competing bids through the Gilbert Arenas Provision. 

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Byron Scott‘s one regret from his time leading the Lakers is that he wished he played his veterans more minutes, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. It’s interesting that Scott said that, considering he was often criticized for the way he handled his younger players, as Medina adds. Scott dismissed the idea that he was too much of a disciplinarian to his younger players, per Medina, and instead said their inexperience hindered their development. Scott was 38-126 as the Lakers’ coach.
  • Clarkson isn’t the only one on the Lakers gushing about Walton. Julius Randle believes his versatility can improve under the new coach because Walton worked extensively with Warriors star Draymond Green, helping to make Green more dynamic, Medina writes in a separate piece.

Pacific Notes: Messina, Rivers, Walton

Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina declined comment Monday on a report that the Kings plan to speak with him this week about their head coaching vacancy, other than to make it clear that he’s content in San Antonio, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays. Sacramento has no shortage of other candidates for its vacancy, but Kings GM Vlade Divac is said to be especially fond of Messina“There is nothing more I can tell you other than that I am very, very happy [with the Spurs],” Messina said.

See more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Austin Rivers has a strong draw to the Clippers as he approaches free agency this summer, since his dad is Doc Rivers, the coach and president of basketball operations, but he also feels a kinship with Jamal Crawford, as Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com details. Crawford is likewise heading into free agency but has said he’d like to re-sign with the Clippers“He’s the best teammate I’ve ever had, man,” Austin Rivers said of Crawford. “A lot of people doubted me when I came to L.A. a year ago. People thought I was just getting a chance because of my father. Jamal believed in me, man.
  • The performance Austin Rivers put forth for the Clippers in Friday’s Game 6 despite a gruesome eye injury was a strong final impression that stands to increase his free agent value, contends Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
  • Luke Walton‘s track record is short, but he gives the Lakers hope, and it won’t take much for him to top the performance of Byron Scott, opines Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who calls Scott one of the worst coaches in recent memory.

Reactions To Lakers Hiring Luke Walton

The Lakers hired Warriors assistant Luke Walton on Friday night as their 26th head coach in team history. Walton replaces Byron Scott, who seemed to struggle with developing the team’s young players. At 36, Walton was in high demand around the league among teams with coaching vacancies. The Kings, Rockets and Knicks were all reportedly interested after he posted a 39-4 record for Golden State as acting head coach in Steve Kerr‘s absence.

The hiring has been received positively around the league. Here are some reactions to it …

  • Despite his lack of experience, Walton will be seen as someone who can fix the Lakers, who have won only 65 games the last three years, writes Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. Since the death of Jerry Buss and departure of Phil Jackson, the Lakers front office has had mixed opinions on moves, but by acting quickly, this decision shows confidence, Oram adds.
  • Walton was the only candidate the Lakers interviewed, report Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. They had other meetings lined up but canceled them after meeting with Walton on Thursday, Holmes writes. The Lakers hired a young, intelligent and up-and-coming coach from a forward-thinking organization that has had a lot of success, Holmes adds.
  • Walton will be able to relate to players because of his age, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News details. Scott was criticized for his high demands of young players, Medina adds. “It’s going to be real good for us,” Lakers rookie forward Anthony Brown said. “He’ll be pretty hands-on just because he’s close to us in age. He’ll really want to help develop guys.”
  • Walton told Shelburne (ESPN Now link), “I loved everything about my time at Golden State and learning from Steve. I’ll forever be grateful to him, the organization and the team. But I have always dreamed of being a head coach and the chance to do that for an organization like the Lakers doesn’t come around very often.”

Lakers Notes: Messina, Walton, Ollie

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke about the firing of Byron Scott during a press conference earlier today, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. “If you’re going to make a change, make a change now.” Kupchak said. “This was clearly just a basketball decision. … Jim [Buss] and I agreed 100 percent.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers have received permission to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, reports Sam Amick of USA Today. It is unclear how soon they intend to bring Messina in for a meeting.
  • The Lakers intend to put a long list together of potential candidates for their head coaching vacancy, which will be headed by Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton, Messina, and UConn’s Kevin Ollie, team sources tell Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. Ding believes that Walton is the obvious choice for the position.
  • Earlier today, it was reported that Ollie has interest in the Lakers‘ job, but he would want a say in personnel decisions. That’s something that’s unlikely to happen, argues Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Pincus points out that the team isn’t in position to give out any sort of control in the front office with Kupchak and Buss around, and the team’s structure isn’t expected to change until after the 2016/17 season, at the earliest.
  • The timing of Scott’s dismissal is curious, opines Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Mannix wonders whether Los Angeles could have landed Tom Thibodeau or Scott Brooks if the team had acted sooner. Brooks reportedly would have had interest in the position.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Durant, Dudley

The specter of a head coaching vacancy on the Lakers intrigued Scott Brooks, but Washington’s quick work to secure him on a five-year, $35MM deal cut off both the Lakers, who’ve yet to decide on the fate of Byron Scott, and the Rockets, TNT’s David Aldridge tweets. Houston reportedly made him one of the favorites for its job but still has interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff in place. All five seasons of Brooks’ contract with the Wizards will be guaranteed, Aldridge hears (Twitter link), and his $7MM annual take ties him with Rick Carlisle for the highest salary among NBA coaches who don’t also have player personnel control, notes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (Twitter link). See more on the impending Brooks hiring and other issues from the nation’s capital:

  • The Brooks deal, which will pay him more than double the roughly $3MM a year that Randy Wittman was making, signals that owner Ted Leonsis is planning to spare no expense in free agency this summer, even if Kevin Durant takes a pass on returning to his native D.C., argues Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.
  • Brooks would still be coaching the Thunder if Durant really had his heart set on playing for him, one league source told Bontemps for the same piece. Some of Durant’s friends who spoke with Chris Mannix of The Vertical cast serious doubt on the idea of Durant playing for the Wizards.
  • Jared Dudley would prefer to re-sign with the Wizards this summer, but he wants to do so with the security of a three-year contract, as he tells Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. That jibes with an earlier report from J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, who wrote that Dudley was open to returning to Washington as long as the team fired Wittman, a move that took place last week. Dudley would also like to see the Wizards re-sign Alan Anderson and Garrett Temple, as Castillo relays.

Reaction To Tom Thibodeau Hiring

The Timberwolves landed the most sought-after coach on the market Wednesday, hiring Tom Thibodeau and giving him player personnel control to boot. The move wasn’t a shock, since Minnesota quickly zeroed in on Thibs and appeared to pursue him with an unmatched fervor. Here’s a sampling of the reaction to Minnesota’s coup:

  • The Thibodeau hire demonstrates that the Wolves are more stable and promising than they ever have been, contends Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune. That Thibodeau would choose Minnesota speaks to just how intriguing the roster is, and it also shows the franchise has its priorities in order, Souhan believes. Thibodeau, in a statement Wednesday, said the Wolves have the best young roster in the NBA, as USA Today’s Sam Amick relays (Twitter link).
  • Thibodeau had long eyed the Lakers, convinced that he could attract elite free agents to play for him in L.A., writes Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who takes the Lakers to task for not deciding Byron Scott‘s fate sooner and missing the chance to offer the job to Thibodeau. The ex-Bulls coach found it too risky to wait around for teams that haven’t decided whether to create coaching opportunities, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
  • Still, many owners and executives around the league question whether Thibodeau can handle serving as coach and president of basketball operations at the same time, Wojnarowski writes in the same piece.
  • The Timberwolves took an approach opposite to that of the Lakers, quickly cutting ties with Sam Mitchell and reversing course on apparent plans to let former GM Milt Newton run the front office this summer, observes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. The team’s statement that the search would focus exclusively on candidates outside the organization was a stunner, given Taylor’s reputation for loyalty, Ding notes.

Coaching Rumors: Walton, Thibodeau, Atkinson

Coaching vacancies tend to dominate headlines this time of year, and this morning, with news about Luke Walton and Mark Jackson, is no exception. See more coaching-related items here:

  • Team president Phil Jackson, after speaking recently with Walton, told members of the Knicks organization that he doesn’t think Walton will leave his job as lead assistant for the Warriors, a source told Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com relays. One report referred to the conversation between Jackson and Walton as an interview for the Knicks head coaching position, but Walton, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and others dispute that idea. The one head coaching job that Walton would be likely to take would be the Lakers gig, according to Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times, but Byron Scott is still in that position and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is reportedly in favor Scott remaining.
  • Some people around the league are convinced Tom Thibodeau will be the next coach of the Timberwolves, Woelfel writes in the same piece. Thibodeau has high level of comfort with Minnesota from his time there as an assistant coach from 1989-91, a source told Marc Berman of the New York Post. Still, potential openings with the Rockets and Lakers intrigue Thibodeau, Woelfel hears.
  • Two NBA executives told Woelfel that Hawks assistant Darvin Ham is likely to elicit serious consideration for head coaching jobs in the next year or two.
  • Multiple Hawks players, including soon-to-be free agent Kent Bazemore, lauded assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, who’ll take over the Nets head coaching job as soon as Atlanta’s playoff run is finished, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com details. Kyle Korver said Atkinson was a significant reason he re-signed with the Hawks in 2013, observes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Pacific Notes: Jones, Russell, Chalmers, Grizzlies

Tyus Jones has already played in more games since the All-Star break than he played before it, as the Timberwolves have decided it’s time to let last year’s 24th overall pick learn on the court. Ricky Rubio, a subject of deadline trade talk whom Jones is trying to eventually replace as Minnesota’s starting point guard, sees “great things” ahead for the rookie, observes Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune.

“He can really score the ball. I think he’€™s learning how to control, and play in this league,” Rubio said. “€œIt’€™s not like college. He’s learning how to play and he’s not afraid. That’€™s one of the main things you ask of a rookie. Don’€™t be afraid.™”€™

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Much consternation has surrounded the limited playing time Lakers coach Byron Scott has given No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell this season, but the combo guard is seeing 31.4 minutes per game since the All-Star break compared to 27.1 minutes per game before it, and he’s upbeat about the future, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “€œIt’€™s all about the opportunity,” Russell said. “€œEverybody has a different route toward reaching their potential. Some people bloom early and some people bloom late. If I’€™m a late bloomer and I’€™m around this league for a long time, I would prefer that.”€
  • Mario Chalmers was popular within the Grizzlies organization, as Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal, who believes his early-season acquisition was a plus for the team, writes in his Pick-and-Pop column. Chalmers cleared waivers after tearing his Achilles tendon last week.
  • The Grizzlies have filled gaps in their roster with such wizened veterans as Gilbert Arenas, Jason Williams and Keyon Dooling in past years, so the recent signings of Ray McCallum, Alex Stepheson and Briante Weber represent a shrewd pivot toward finding stopgaps with potential future value, Herrington argues in the same piece.

Lakers Mull Early End To Season For Larry Nance Jr.

The Lakers are thinking about having Larry Nance Jr. miss the rest of the season to allow soreness in his surgically repaired right knee to heal, coach Byron Scott said, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The plan for now is to evaluate the knee and see whether he can play in the team’s next game Wednesday, Holmes writes, noting that the Lakers took him out of Monday’s game for what Nance described as precautionary reasons. He’s missed nine of the last 12 games because of the knee.

It’s too late in the season for the Lakers to apply for a disabled player exception, which the team could otherwise receive if Nance had a season-ending injury. The 23-year-old is the only Laker dealing with a serious ailment for now, so a hardship exception for a 16th roster spot, a provision the NBA granted an injury-racked Lakers team late last season, isn’t in play.

The Lakers are in position to worry far more about lottery position and retaining their top-three protected first-round pick than the playoffs, so the greater concern would appear to center on Nance’s long-term health. He tore the ACL in his right knee during the 2013/14 season when he was a junior at the University of Wyoming but recovered well enough to play 31 games as a senior and become the 27th overall pick this past June. The power forward plays a highly athletic style, so any serious knee issue is liable to compromise that. He started 22 games this season before knee trouble flared up last month.

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