Chris Jent

Scotto’s Latest: J. Smith, Toppin, Weaver, Hartenstein, Huerter, O’Neale, More

Early indications suggest that Pacers power forward Jalen Smith will decline his $5.4MM player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports in his latest aggregate mock draft. Sources tell Scotto that a final decision hasn’t been made, but Smith appears to be leaning toward testing the free agency waters. He has a June 29 deadline to opt in for 2024/25.

Smith, 24, appeared in 61 games this season and posted a career high in scoring at 9.9 PPG, along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 17.2 minutes per night. He was selected 10th overall by Phoenix in the 2020 draft and was acquired by Indiana at the 2022 trade deadline.

Scotto notes that rival teams are watching to see whether the Pacers will re-sign restricted free agent Obi Toppin. If the fourth-year power forward reaches a new deal, there’s a belief that Indiana might be willing to trade Jarace Walker, who was a lottery pick last June.

Scotto shares more inside information in his aggregate draft:

  • Washington is believed to be a potential destination for former Pistons general manager Troy Weaver, who recently parted ways with the team, Scotto writes, noting that Weaver was once part of Oklahoma City’s front office along with Wizards executives Michael Winger and Will Dawkins.
  • Scotto talked with some NBA executives who believe the Magic should be considered a threat to sign Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein. Orlando could have close to $50MM in cap space to work with.
  • Executives also expect the Kings to explore deals involving Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes, Scotto adds.
  • The Raptors plan to work out an extension with Scottie Barnes this summer, sources tell Scotto. The versatile swingman made his first All-Star appearance this year.
  • Scotto echoes other reports in stating that Royce O’Neale is likely to reach a new contract with the Suns. The 31-year-old forward, who was acquired from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, is expected to receive about $10MM per year, according to Scotto.
  • Vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry isn’t expected to return to the Spurs next season, sources tell Scotto. The longtime NBA player has been an executive with San Antonio since 2018.
  • Assistant coach Jason Love will likely leave the Sixers and join Doc Rivers’ staff with the Bucks, Scotto states. Love previously worked for Rivers in Philadelphia.
  • The Hornets are assembling a staff of assistants for new head coach Charles Lee. Scotto hears it will include Lamar SkeeterJosh LongstaffChris JentRyan FrazierZach PetersonMatt Hill and Blaine Mueller.

Hornets Hiring Chris Jent As Assistant Coach

The Hornets have reached an agreement to hire veteran assistant coach Chris Jent, reports Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Jent will serve under Hornets new head coach Charles Lee, who has begun to put together his staff for his first year in Charlotte as he continues his role as a Celtics assistant during Boston’s playoff run. Previous reports indicated that the Hornets are also hiring Lamar Skeeter from the Jazz and Josh Longstaff from the Bulls.

Jent spent the last two seasons with the Lakers on Darvin Ham‘s staff, but Los Angeles parted ways with all of its assistants in addition to firing Ham earlier this spring, making Jent a coaching free agent.

Prior to his stint in L.A., Jent was an assistant for five years with the Hawks and also spent time with the Sixers, Magic, Cavaliers, and Kings in addition to two separate stints as an assistant at his alma mater of Ohio State. He has some head coaching experience too, having spent a year at the helm of the Bakersfield Jam (now the Motor City Cruise) in the G League in 2015/16, as well as briefly serving as an interim head coach in Orlando in 2005 following Johnny Davis‘ dismissal.

A wing at Ohio State from 1988-1992, Jent had a 10-year playing career before transitioning to coaching. He primarily played in international leagues, but was a member of the 1994 Rockets team that won a title and had a short stint with the Knicks during the 1996/97 season.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Williams, Nunn, Lakers’ Staff, Vezenkov

The Suns matched the Pacers’ four-year, $133MM offer sheet for Deandre Ayton but there’s still some lingering tensions between the center and coach Monty Williams. Ayton said on Tuesday he still hasn’t spoken with Williams since he was benched during the Game 7 conference semifinals loss to the Mavericks in the spring.

“I haven’t spoken to him at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and other media members. Asked what he plans to say to Williams when they do speak, Ayton replied, “I can show him better than I can tell him. It’s life. Nobody cares about the uncomfortable nature of it, it’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”

Williams believes he’ll be able to mend fences with Ayton.

“I think 1-on-1s are always needed between guys I’ve been around for awhile,” Williams said. “Some guys need it and some guys don’t. I’ll identify that as the season progresses. I’ll talk to everybody as I always do during camp and it won’t be an issue at all.”

If things can’t be worked out, Phoenix will have to wait before finding a new home for Ayton. He’s not eligible to be dealt until January 15.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • After missing all of last season due to a knee injury, Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn was a full participant in the team’s first practice on Tuesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets“Getting the rhythm back and feeling good on the floor with no injuries, feeling pain-free and able to play is everything for me,” he said. “So today was a good day for me.”
  • The Lakers officially announced Darvin Ham‘s coaching staff in a press releaseChris Jent, Jordan Ott, J.D. DuBois, Schuyler Rimmer and Zach Peterson are the newcomers, joining Phil Handy, Dru Anthrop and Jon Pastorek.
  • The Kings expressed some interest in European star Sasha Vezenkov this offseason but he decided to stay at least for one more season with Greece’s Olympiacos. Vezenkov, a 2017 second-round pick, believes he made the right move, according to Achilleas Mavrodontis of Eurohoops.net. “It was the first summer in a long time that there was some solid talk, and the Kings showed interest,” he said. “Based on the information, what I heard, and what I had on the table, I decided that the best option for me was Olynpiacos. I don’t look back. I always stand by my decisions. I’m trying to prove that it was the best choice.”

Lakers Hiring Chris Jent As Top Assistant Coach

Chris Jent will join the Lakers‘ coaching staff as the top assistant to new head coach Darvin Ham, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Jent is a long-time NBA assistant who has been with the Hawks since the 2017/18 season. Wojnarowski notes that he built a strong relationship with Lakers star LeBron James while serving as an assistant in Cleveland from 2006-11. Ham worked with Jent under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta in 2017-18 and spent the past week recruiting Jent to join his staff, according to Woj.

Jent’s playing career included two brief NBA stops and a career total of six games, but he spent most of his time playing overseas. After retiring, he began his coaching career as an assistant with the Sixers in 2003.

Chris Jent Candidate To Become Lakers Assistant Coach

Hawks assistant coach Chris Jent is a candidate to become an assistant under new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, sources tell Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Jent, 52, had a short playing career after four seasons at Ohio State, winning a championship with Houston in 1993/94. He’s a long-time NBA assistant, with stints in Philadelphia, Orlando (where he was briefly an interim head coach in ’04/05), Cleveland, Sacramento and now Atlanta.

He was a Cavs assistant from 2006-11, with four seasons of overlap with star LeBron James, so the two are obviously familiar with each other. Jent has been with Atlanta for the past five seasons and served as acting head coach earlier this season when Nate McMillan was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.

Ham and Jent also have experience together, as they were both assistants with the Hawks under Mike Budenholzer in ’17/18.

Echoing an earlier report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, Turner says Rasheed Wallace remains a candidate to become an assistant coach as well.

COVID-19 Updates: Malone, Budenholzer, Hawks, Holiday, Marjanovic, Vincent, Nader

Two head coaches may clear health and safety protocols in time for their teams’ next games. Michael Malone traveled with the Nuggets to Oklahoma City and expects to be on the sidelines Sunday, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Malone missed four games while in the protocols, and acting coach Popeye Jones compiled a 2-2 record.

Darvin Ham, who is serving as acting head coach for the Bucks, is hoping Mike Budenholzer will be ready to return for Monday’s game at Charlotte, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). Nehm suggests that Budenholzer still needs to return multiple negative tests before being cleared.

Here are more updates on COVID-19 and the health and safety protocols:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan remains in the protocols, but assistant Chris Jent has been cleared and will serve as acting head coach for Sunday’s game against the Clippers, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Bucks guard Jrue Holiday tested out of the protocols, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, Holiday sat out tonight’s game because of pain in his left ankle.
  • Mavericks center Boban Marjanovic has cleared the protocols, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
  • Heat guard Gabe Vincent is out of the protocols, but isn’t with the team for tonight’s game in Phoenix, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Marcus Garrett is the only Miami player remaining in the protocols.
  • Suns forward Abdel Nader has also cleared the protocols, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Nader is recovering from a knee injury and will have to go through reconditioning before he can play again.
  • Follow our Health And Safety Protocols Tracker for a complete list of how the virus is affecting the league.

Southeast Notes: Suggs, Hawks, Okongwu, Miles Bridges, LaMelo

2021 fifth overall pick Jalen Suggs suffered a fractured right thumb on Monday for the Magic, but surgery won’t be necessary to repair the injury, according to Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com.

Savage writes that Suggs will be evaluated every two weeks to assess how much the bone has healed, and the healing process will determine when he returns to the court.

Through 21 contests (27.8 MPG), Suggs is averaging 12.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.6 APG and 1.1 SPG. His counting stats are solid, but like many rookies, he’s struggled with efficiency in the early going, committing 3.2 turnovers per game with a poor shooting line of .339/.255/.763.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hawks assistant coach Jamelle McMillan is in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols and head coach Nate McMillan will be isolating until he has tested negative multiple times, the team announced (Twitter link). In a follow-up tweet, the team says that assistant coach Chris Jent will serve as head coach Dec. 1 against the Pacers. Jent is a veteran assistant and has been with the Hawks since 2017.
  • Second-year Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu is starting to ramp up activity while recovering from shoulder surgery. We noted last week he played 3-on-3, and now coach Nate McMillan says he’s going to start practicing 5-on-5 with the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). He’s expected to play in a G League game if the practices go well.
  • LaMelo Ball is playing a major role in Miles Bridges‘ breakout season with the Hornets, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes. Tjarks takes an in-depth look at the connection between the two players, noting that Bridges is an All-Star candidate this season with two-way impact. Tjarks says the Hornets may regret not giving Bridges a rookie scale extension at a discounted rate when they had the chance, stating that Bridges could earn a max contract next summer if he keeps playing at a high level.

Multiple Hawks Players Reportedly Wanted Coaching Change

There was hope entering the season in Atlanta that the previously-existent friction between Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and star guard Trae Young would be a thing of the past, but it reemerged as the season progressed, according to Chris Kirschner, Sam Amick, and David Aldridge of The Athletic. And the Athletic trio suggests that Young wasn’t the only Hawks player frustrated by Pierce’s coaching style.

Sources tell The Athletic that several members of the Hawks were “eager to hear a new voice,” and that multiple players recently shared their desire for a change with team management. By the time Pierce was let go on Monday, player support for him was dwindling, per Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge.

As the trio details, there wasn’t a single moment this season that resulted in Pierce losing the locker room, but it happened over time due to a number of small moments that added up.

“There’s no telling when he lost it,” a source close to the team told The Athletic. “He didn’t have support from many people. It came down to him not being able to manage egos. That’s what did him in, especially these young guys. It’s tough.”

The Athletic’s report, which is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber, includes many other interesting tidbits on the Hawks’ coaching change. Here are a few highlights:

  • Pierce’s job security was already tenuous by the end of the 2019/20 season, but a number of factors – including the abrupt hiatus and Pierce’s strong voice during the social justice movement – helped save his job for the time being, according to The Athletic’s report.
  • Multiple Hawks players felt last season as if they weren’t having their concerns heard when they approached Pierce about them, and started going to assistant coach Chris Jent with those concerns instead, per The Athletic. Players once again felt unheard this season when they asked Pierce about adjusting the late-game offense to make it more free-flowing.
  • Sources tell The Athletic that Cam Reddish was among the players who bristled at Pierce’s coaching style and felt as if he was being “picked on” behind the scenes. According to Kirschner, Amick, and Aldridge, some Hawks players believe Reddish’s ceiling is as high as anyone’s on the roster and thought Pierce’s approach was stunting his development.
  • The Hawks’ fourth-quarter struggles this season bothered team owner Tony Ressler, who “grew incensed” when the club kept losing winnable games by blowing late leads, per The Athletic’s trio. GM Travis Schlenk has said the decision to fire Pierce was his and his front office’s, but at the very least, Ressler had to sign off on it.

Larry Drew Unlikely To Coach Cavs Long-Term

The Cavaliers have begun searching for a permanent head coach for 2019/20 and beyond, and Larry Drew isn’t believed to be a serious candidate, according to a report from Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. While Drew has served as Cleveland’s interim coach since Tyronn Lue‘s dismissal earlier this season, he’s unsure he’d want to return next season and doesn’t appear likely to be asked, per Vardon and Lloyd.

“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” said Drew, who has dealt with a constant stream of injuries since Lue’s ouster, guiding the Cavs to a 9-34 record.

According to Vardon and Lloyd, the Cavaliers will likely seek a first-time NBA head coach who has experience developing players and/or coaching in the G League. The club hasn’t yet begun reaching out to candidates or their agents, since the search is still in its infancy. However, The Athletic duo identifies six candidates who have ties to the Cavs or GM Koby Altman and could be fits. Those six candidates are:

  • Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez
  • Hornets assistant Steve Hetzel
  • Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin
  • Hawks assistant Chris Jent
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen

It’s not entirely clear whether Vardon and Lloyd are just speculating based on the criteria outlined by the Cavs and Altman’s history with those coaches, or if they have inside info on the club’s wish list. Either way, it seems safe to assume that at least a few of those assistants will receive consideration from Cleveland.

For now, Drew is still running the show and the 60-year-old coach admits that he’s happy Lue was let go early in the season — not because he wanted to supplant Lue, but because he believes the Cavs’ struggles this year would have been hard on the team’s former head coach, who battled stress and health issues last season.

“I wouldn’t want to see him go through this,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t want him to go through it from a physical and mental standpoint after some of the things that he went through. He deserves better after having won a championship. He deserves much, much better.”

When the Cavs initially replaced Lue with Drew, he resisted taking on the title of interim head coach until the team gave him a raise and a small financial guarantee for next season. Several months later, he still doesn’t sound like someone who wanted the job to begin with, as Vardon and Lloyd relay.

“I wasn’t looking to do this. I was not looking to do this at all,” Drew said. “But it happened. Ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wade, Simons

If the Hornets are going to turn the fate of their franchise around, they’ll have to improve how they handle lottery picks. Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes that only one of their seven different top-11 picks since 2011 has been an All-Star.

Bonnell breaks down ex-general manager Rich Cho‘s underwhelming draft portfolio noting that beyond Walker, only one of the remaining six players they’ve drafted in the top-11 has even gone on to be a consistent starter (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).

To Cho’s credit, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Malik Monk can all be valuable rotation pieces for the foreseeable future but it’s hard to justify the selections of Bismack Biyombo and Noah Vonleh.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Pending free agent Dwyane Wade has not decided if he’s going to retire or not. If he returns, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets, he’d want to return with the Heat.
  • Not surprisingly, Anfernee Simons was particularly excited to work out for the Magic, the franchise with whom his namesake made his mark. John Denton of the team’s official site writes about the Florida native’s connection to the team and his decision to enter the draft directly out of prep school.
  • It’s official, the Hawks have made Melvin Hunt, Chris Jent, Greg Foster, Marlon Garnett and Matt Hill assistant coaches under new head coach Lloyd Pierce, the team announced on its website.