Brook Lopez

Central Notes: M. Williams, Pistons, Bucks, Pacers

If Monty Williams hadn’t accepted an extremely lucrative offer to become the Pistons‘ new head coach, the team likely would’ve ended up deciding between Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee. According to reporting from Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic and Omari Sankofa of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required), the Pistons met again with Ollie last Thursday and Lee on Friday before convening on Saturday to discuss their options.

Team sources who spoke to The Athletic said that both Ollie and Lee impressed the franchise “in different ways,” but the Pistons decided to circle back to Williams once more after he had rebuffed their initial advances.

Following Saturday’s meeting between Pistons ownership and management, team owner Tom Gores sent a private plane to pick up Williams in Phoenix on Sunday and flew him to Gores’ home in California. One day later, on Memorial Day, the Pistons made a formal offer to Williams, who agreed to the “fundamentals of the terms” but took a couple more days to weigh his decision before deciding on Wednesday to accept Detroit’s offer.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes a look at what the Pistons are getting in Williams, writing that the veteran coach will demand accountability in Detroit and is capable of building and nurturing a positive culture like he did in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • There’s plenty to like about the Bucks‘ decision to hire Adrian Griffin as their new head coach, according to Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who views Griffin’s extensive and varied experience as both a player and a coach as a good sign that he’ll be able to connect with players of all skill levels and backgrounds.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Eric Nehm considers the Bucks‘ next moves with Khris Middleton (player option for 2023/24) and Brook Lopez (UFA). As Nehm points out, Milwaukee’s cap situation would make it difficult to find suitable replacements for Middleton and/or Lopez if they’re not brought back, but the team may still have some leverage in contract talks with the duo if cap-room teams don’t prioritize the Bucks’ vets.
  • Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star breaks down the pros and cons of some of the players who could be available for the Pacers with the No. 7 overall pick, including Cam Whitmore, Ausar Thompson, Taylor Hendricks, and Anthony Black.
  • After wrapping up his college career at Iowa this spring, Connor McCaffery – the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery – is taking what he refers to as an “entry-level” job with the Pacers, per Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register. “I’ll play dummy defense, run the scout team, help coaches on film stuff, help on video projects if they need, scouting reports if they need,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s kind of all-hands on deck, whatever you’re asked to do, be ready to do it.”

Rockets Rumors: No. 4 Pick, FA Targets, Coaching Staff, More

Multiple teams have already expressed some level of interest in acquiring the Rockets‘ No. 4 overall pick, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

It remains to be seen just how much value that pick will have and whether it would be enough to be the centerpiece of a deal for an impact player, Iko writes. Because the draft is perceived to have a drop-off after No. 3, Houston is also considering whether it would be possible to move up into the top three with a package centered around the Nos. 4 and 20 overall picks, league sources tell Iko.

If the Rockets keep their lottery pick and there are no surprises in the top three, Overtime Elite wing Amen Thompson could be the player atop Houston’s board, according to Iko, who says that several people within the organization are high on Thompson. Iko hears that both Amen and his twin brother Ausar Thompson had positive interviews with the team at last week’s combine.

No matter what happens with the No. 4 pick, the Rockets intend to be aggressive in their pursuit of veterans this offseason, with a desire to improve their play-making, shooting, and defense, Iko adds. League sources tell The Athletic that James Harden is Houston’s top free agent target, with Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks, Donte DiVincenzo, Jordan Clarkson, Cameron Johnson, and Austin Reaves among the other players the team may pursue.

Acquiring an established point guard will be a primary objective for Houston this summer, per Iko, so if they miss out on Harden, the Rockets could explore a trade for a veteran like Mike Conley or Chris Paul.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • New Rockets head coach Ime Udoka recently traveled to Los Angeles to visit with Jalen Green, says Iko. That time spent with Green – which included workouts and a dinner – is part of Udoka’s efforts to get to know his new team before the fall. “I’ve gotten the chance to spend a lot of time with the players. Got some lunches, dinner, gym time with guys,” Udoka told Iko. “Also been busy putting together a staff, getting to know everybody, but the most important thing is to spend time with the guys, build a relationship with them, and I’ve done quite a bit of that.”
  • Speaking of Udoka’s staff, Iko reports that assistant coaches Lionel Hollins and Rick Higgins aren’t expected to be back with the Rockets next season. However, it’s unclear whether or not Mahmoud Abdelfattah – another assistant under Stephen Silas – will return. Abdelfattah was part of the Rockets’ contingent at last week’s combine and has frequently been at the club’s facility since the end of the season, sources tell The Athletic.
  • The Rockets could be the long-term winners of the blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Philadelphia and Ben Simmons to Brooklyn, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Houston controls the Nets’ first-round picks from 2024-27 (either outright or via swaps) and may be in position to steal Harden away from the Sixers this offseason.

NBA Announces 2022/23 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 100 media members vote on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Jackson – who was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – received the most First Team votes (96) and showed up on the most overall ballots (99). Only one voter didn’t have Jackson on either All-Defensive team.

Milwaukee teammates Holiday (94) and Lopez (85) received the second- and third-most First Team votes. No other player earned more than 50.

While the Bucks have two players on the First Team, it’s a bit surprising to see former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo miss out altogether. Antetokounmpo earned 16 First Team votes and 28 Second Team votes for a total of 60 points, the most of any player who didn’t earn All-Defensive honors. Although he received more total points than Brooks or Adebayo, Giannis didn’t make the cut because there were four forwards with more points than him.

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (40 points), Celtics guard Marcus Smart (35), Nets guard Mikal Bridges (33), and Nets center Nic Claxton (25) would have joined Antetokounmpo on a hypothetical All-Defensive Third Team as the highest vote-getters who fell just short.

A total of 38 players showed up on at least one ballot — the full voting results can be viewed here.

Being named to an All-Defensive team will benefit a pair of players financially, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). White earned a $250K bonus for his Second Team nod, while Holiday will receive $129,600 for making the First Team.

Bucks Notes: Coaching Search, Giannis, Middleton, Lopez

Despite the Bucks‘ regular season success in recent years, their playoff runs – with the exception of their 2021 championship – haven’t ended the way they wanted or expected, general manager Jon Horst told reporters on Friday in explaining why the team felt the need to move on from Mike Budenholzer.

As Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays, Horst said on Friday that the Bucks’ next head coach won’t necessarily need to have championship experience – or even NBA head coaching experience – since he doesn’t yet want to “put any boxes around” what sort of candidate the team is looking for.

“That could change. This is obviously very early in what will be a thorough process. Very early in terms of time after the decision’s been made,” Horst said. “… As we dive into the process and it evolves, obviously it becomes more narrow, but at this point, everything is and should be on the table. We’re very much in a phase of gathering and collecting and who’s interested and what that very large candidate pool can be and then we’ll work from there.

Horst, who said he’ll be seeking someone with many of the same traits as Budenholzer who can unlock more of the roster’s potential, added that he likes the idea of getting feedback from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ other core players before officially hiring a new head coach.

“When it comes to our guys, I really hope and expect them to have a role and a voice in the process,” he said, per Owczarski. “Their opinion matters to me. I know it matters to our ownership group. It’s something that I trust and value. So as we go through the process, I think at the right time we’ll make sure that a group of our players weigh in and partake in this in the right way and the right time.”

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Faced with a new CBA that will introduce more restrictive measures for teams well above the tax line, the Bucks are in a difficult position as they weigh what to do with Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, two important players who are in their 30s and are up for new contracts, Brian Windhorst said during a TV appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (Twitter video link). Windhorst suggests that Marc Lasry‘s decision to sell his stake in the team this year was likely related to the cap-related “quagmire” Milwaukee will face in the coming years.
  • In a subscriber-only story for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jim Owczarski examines whether the new CBA will shorten the Bucks’ championship window and digs into what the market will look like for Middleton and Lopez this offseason, assuming Middleton opts out. While rival teams will covet both players and neither will come cheap, sources tell Owczarski that Middleton won’t command a maximum-salary deal and Lopez’s age and 2021 back surgery will work against him.
  • Elsewhere at The Journal Sentinel, Owczarski identifies some head coaching candidates the Bucks could consider and breaks down contract details for every player on the roster.

Bucks Notes: First-Round Loss, Budenholzer, Free Agency, Antetokounmpo, Crowder

After winning a league-best 58 games during the regular season, the Bucks could only manage one victory against a determined Heat team in the postseason, writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The betting favorite to win the title heading into the playoffs saw its season end in shocking fashion Wednesday night with an epic fourth quarter collapse and an overtime loss.

“For me, I think this has been the worst postseason ever,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t think, you know, like we have a number in there, like every other team has a number (of games to win a title) like 16, 15, 14, and this like, we’re stuck at 15. I don’t think we’ve ever, as long as I’ve been in the playoffs, been stuck – maybe we lost in the first round – but not stuck at 15. Which is kind of hard to deal with.”

The back injury that Antetokounmpo suffered in Game 1 affected the direction of the series, but there were plenty of other explanations for Milwaukee’s first-round defeat. There were turnovers, missed free throws, rebounding lapses and a lack of focus at critical times.

Several players refused to talk to the media after being eliminated, but those who did expressed severe disappointment.

“I feel like we had the roster to do more than what we’ve done,” Jae Crowder said. “We came up short. Obviously we had a championship in mind and that’s the only conversation we always had, is championship. So we came up short big time. And we failed.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Among the lapses were questionable coaching decisions by Mike Budenholzer, who was heavily criticized in the press and on social media following Wednesday’s loss. Budenholzer failed to call a timeout after Jimmy Butler tied the game with 0.5 seconds left in regulation or as the Bucks failed to get off a shot as the final buzzer sounded in overtime. There were rumors that Budenholzer might be fired before the Bucks won the title in 2021, and Tim Cato of The Athletic considers it unlikely that he’ll survive Wednesday’s performance.
  • Brook Lopez, who will be a free agent, and Khris Middleton, who has a $40.4MM player option, will be the names to watch this offseason, per Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link). If the front office brings back both players, the Bucks will be a tax team for the fourth straight year.
  • Antetokounmpo will become eligible for an extension in September, but that could just be a formality, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. Gozlan expects the two-time MVP to wait and seek a new long-term contract once his current deal expires.
  • Crowder is among several free agent bench players who face uncertain futures this summer. After the Bucks gave up five second-round picks to acquire him in February, he got into just three games and played 40 total minutes during the series, notes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link).

Bucks Notes: Haslam, Lopez, Depth, Giannis, Matthews

Before buying a stake in the franchise, Jimmy Haslam first spoke to Bucks co-owner Wes Edens when he was mulling the possibility of bidding for the Timberwolves, according to Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“We actually took a look at the Minnesota Timberwolves and a friend of mine said, ‘You should call Wes Edens, he operates a team in the upper Midwest, they’ve had great success,'” Haslam said. “‘Cause you’re concerned, can you attract players, can you win in a small market? So we had about an hour-and-a-half conversation and Wes was hugely helpful.”

While Haslam didn’t end up investing in the Timberwolves, his conversation with Edens made him more comfortable jumping at the chance to purchase a stake in the Bucks when the opportunity arose. Asked for his thoughts about the future of the team in Milwaukee, Haslam expressed confidence in the Bucks’ long-term outlook.

“The first time Wes and I ever talked was (asking) could an NBA team not just reside here, but could it be successful? And they’ve obviously proved they can,” Haslam said. “They’ve punched way over their weight in almost everything in the NBA, starting first of all on the court, which is what counts. I anticipate the team being here for a long time. Listen, this isn’t a turnaround situation. These guys have done a hell of a job, so we’re gonna be quiet and listen and learn, and if we can help down the road, that’s great.”

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Brook Lopez made an All-Star team back in 2013 but has never played in the Olympics and fell just short of earning his first Defensive Player of the Year award this spring. Although he’d like to earn more accolades before he calls it a career, Lopez says he’s motivated by missing out, per Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I use all that stuff,” he said. “I’d like to be a part of an Olympic team. I still feel like I have a long career left. Hopefully playing the way I play, maybe a couple of all-stars? I have my personal goals, but the way things roll out, it’s definitely motivation for me.”
  • Without Giannis Antetokounmpo available in Game 2 due to his lower back contusion, the Bucks showed off their depth and proved that they’re capable of holding down the fort until the MVP finalist returns, writes Jamal Collier of Pat Connaughton was one of the role players who provided a critical spark for the team, Owczarski writes for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Will Antetokounmpo be able to return for Game 3 in Miami? That’s still to be determined, as the star forward has been listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest. Giannis did some individual work on Friday, but didn’t take part in practice with his teammates, per Owczarski.
  • Wesley Matthews, who played nearly 18 minutes in Game 1 of the series and then missed Game 2 with a right calf strain, has been ruled out for Game 3 as well. A source with knowledge of the situation tells Owczarski that the Bucks are hopeful Matthews’ strain isn’t as severe as the one that sidelined him for nine games in February and March.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Named Defensive Player Of Year

Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, the NBA on TNT tweets. Jackson received 56 of the 100 first-place votes, according to an NBA press release.

The Bucks’ Brook Lopez and Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley were the other finalists. Lopez was the runner-up, notching 31 first-place votes while Mobley received eight. Draymond Green (3) and Bam Adebayo (1) also received first-place votes and finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Joel Embiid claimed the final first-place vote, though the Sixers star finished ninth overall, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, OG Anunoby, and Jrue Holiday. Nic Claxton, Alex Caruso, and Jimmy Butler also appeared on at least one ballot.

Jackson led the NBA in blocks per game (3.0) and also averaged one steal in 63 regular-season appearances for the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. He had a career-best 2.0 Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating and a 3.8 Defensive Win Shares rating, ranking him among the top 10 in the league in both categories.

Lopez averaged a career-high 2.5 blocks while serving as the defensive anchor for the Eastern Conference’s top seed. His total of 193 blocks in 78 games led the league during the regular season.

Mobley averaged 1.5 blocks per game and, along with Jarrett Allen, anchored a defense that limited opponents to a NBA-low 106.9 points per game.

The Celtics’ Marcus Smart scored a rare victory for a guard when he won the award last season. Rudy Gobert won it as a member of the Jazz three of the previous four years. Antetokounmpo won it during the pandemic-shortened 2019/20 season.

Among active players, Green (2016/17 season) and Kawhi Leonard (2014/15 and 2015/16) have also earned the honor.

NBA Announces 2022/23 Award Finalists

The NBA announced its finalists for all the major 2022/23 regular season awards on Friday evening (all Twitter links can be found here).

Here is the full list of finalists for each of the awards, listed in alphabetical order:

Most Valuable Player

Defensive Player of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Most Improved Player

Sixth Man of the Year

Coach of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

TNT will begin announcing the winners next week during its coverage of the 2023 playoffs, according to the NBA. The three finalists for each award are based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Antetokounmpo, the league’s back-to-back MVP winner in 2018/19 and ’19/20, has finished fourth and third in MVP voting over the past two seasons, respectively. He averaged a career-high 31.1 PPG along with 11.8 RPG and 5.7 APG on .553/.275/.645 shooting in 63 games (32.1 MPG) this season in leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best record at 58-24.

Embiid, the MVP runner-up in each of the past two years, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season, posting a career-high 33.1 PPG along with 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG on .548/.330/.857 shooting in 66 games (34.6 MPG). The Sixers finished third in the East with a 54-28 record, though it’s worth noting that record is also the third-best mark in the league.

Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, averaged 24.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG and 1.3 SPG on .632/.383/.822 shooting in 69 games (33.7. MPG). In addition to breaking Wilt Chamberlain‘s record for most assists per game by a center (8.6), Jokic led the Nuggets to the top seed in the West with a 53-29 record.

It’s long been assumed that Banchero, Brown and Fox were the runaway favorites for their respective awards. Given Embiid’s excellent play to end the season and Denver’s stumble to the finish line, it seems likely that Embiid will edge out Jokic and Antetokounmpo to win his first MVP — all three finalists are more than deserving, just as they were last year.

However, the other three awards are more up in the air. Jackson and Lopez have been considered the betting favorites for DPOY for much of the second half of the season. Mobley’s inclusion is somewhat surprising, but maybe it shouldn’t be — the Cavs finished with the league’s top defense and he is arguably the best defender on the team.

Bucks Notes: Matthews, Middleton, Holiday, Lopez

The Bucks have been limiting Wesley Matthews‘ playing time to keep him fresh for the postseason, and the 36-year-old swingman showed Wednesday what his playoff impact might be, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Amid injuries to several teammates, Matthews played 30 minutes against the Bulls, contributing seven points and eight rebounds while frustrating DeMar DeRozan on defense.

Matthews has appeared in just 50 games this season and has logged 15.8 minutes per night, the lowest figure of his career. He hasn’t necessarily endorsed the reduced role, but he’s willing to do whatever coach Mike Budenholzer believes is best for the team.

“It’s tough to manage, but within that, it’s understanding that you can still impact the game and that goes back to what my mom told me, I think probably when I was like four or five years old is that there’s so many ways that you can impact the basketball game,” Matthews said. “Other than my high school time, my high school career, I’ve never been the leading scorer on my team. Could I have done it? Probably. But that wasn’t what was asked of me. It was to win. Help the team win, and by any means necessary.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Khris Middleton left Wednesday’s game in the first quarter with soreness in his right knee after appearing to hurt it on a jump shot (video link), Nehm adds. Budenholzer wasn’t able to offer much information on Middleton’s condition, but he called it a “re-aggravation of kind of something that we’ve been working with him on all year.” Middleton has dealt with a variety of ailments that have limited him to 33 games. He missed the first 20 games of the season while recovering from surgery and experienced persistent knee pain around the All-Star break.
  • Jrue Holiday is close to wrapping up another bonus, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Holiday will receive a bonus if he averages 7.3 assists per game, and he’s at 7.4 after picking up 15 assists against Chicago.
  • With 26 points on Wednesday, Brook Lopez reached the 20-point mark for the 26th time this season, tweets Kane Pittman of ESPN Australia. That matches his total during his first four years with the Bucks as he’s enjoying his best scoring season since 2016/17. Lopez is also among the top contenders for Defensive Player of the Year honors and is in position to land another significant contract at age 35.

Bucks Notes: Lopez, Top Seed, Thanasis, Mamukelashvili, Ingles

Brook Lopez showed why he’s so valuable to the Bucks during Sunday’s victory over Toronto, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The veteran center finished with a strong stat line — a team-high 26 points (on 9-of-15 shooting), five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 31 minutes.

What those numbers don’t show is that he completely dominated the fourth quarter. With Giannis Antetokounmpo facing consistent double-teams, Lopez made timely cuts, drives and finishes around the hoop, finishing with more points (17) than the Raptors (16) in the final frame, Nehm writes.

As Nehm details, Lopez’s offensive arsenal has continually evolved since he joined Milwaukee five years ago. He’s averaging 15.6 points (highest total in six years), while shooting 52.1% from the field (highest FG% in nine years) and a career-best 37.7% from three-point range.

Lopez, who is making $13.9MM in the final year of his contract, is also a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, posting a career high 2.5 blocks per game for the NBA’s top team.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • At 52-20, the Bucks hold a 2.5-game lead on the Celtics for the best record in the NBA. Are they gunning for the No. 1 overall seed entering the playoffs? “I think we want it,” guard Grayson Allen said, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think we want the one seed. Even like after All-Star break it’s been super close between really the top three teams in the East, so, it’s not something we obsess about – we’re not checking it every day, every game – but I think we’re definitely aware of it. I know as a group, I know we want the one seed.” According to Owczarski, Antetokounmpo said that if he had to pick between the Bucks being healthy or the top seed, he would choose health, but since it’s within reach, they “should take the spot” to get home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
  • Reserve forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo was away from the team for five days, including a couple games, while dealing with a personal matter, but he has rejoined the Bucks, Owczarski writes in another story. Guard Goran Dragic has yet to make his Bucks debut due to knee soreness, and forward Jae Crowder has missed the past three games with left calf soreness. When asked if they could return on the upcoming three-game road trip, head coach Mike Budenholzer said it was still up in the air. “I think it’s right on the window of possibility,” Budenholzer said. “There’s a chance they’re not available, but there is a chance that they are. They’re working, both of them hard, making good progress. We’ll just see how it goes during that stretch.”
  • Budenholzer said it was tough to part with Sandro Mamukelashvili at the beginning of the month, but the team believed it was the “right thing” for the big man’s career, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. He is a good player,” Budenholzer said before Thursday’s matchup with the Spurs. “I hope he is terrible tonight, but generally he is great. And we are great fans of the human. He is a great person.” The Spurs claimed the second-year forward/center off waivers after he was released by Milwaukee and converted his two-way contract to a standard rest-of-season deal.
  • Forward Joe Ingles recently shared some thoughts on how he’s approaching his return to Utah to face the Jazz on Friday night, his longtime former club, notes Gabe Stoltz of BrewHoop (via Twitter).