Gianluca Pascucci

Western Notes: Griffin, Williamson, Morant, Grizzlies, Wolves

Pelicans star Zion Williamson is eligible to sign a contract extension with the team this summer, but executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin admitted that negotiations could be challenging, as relayed by Christian Clark of

“Obviously, that conversation is going to be one that will be a challenge,” Griffin said. “When it’s time to have that, we’ll have it. And right now what we’re focused on is him being healthy, and (being in) kind of elite condition to play basketball, and we’ll start there.”

Clark explores what Griffin could’ve meant by using the word “challenge,” noting that Williamson has dealt with multiple injuries since being drafted. The former No. 1 overall pick expressed optimism last month about staying in New Orleans long-term, but he’s only appeared in 85 games across three seasons with the team.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Speaking of contract extensions, Grizzlies star Ja Morant is eager to sign one with the team this offseason, as shared by Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (video link). Morant is coming off a career-best season, averaging 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. “I’m definitely happy to be here. Memphis is my home,” Morant said, later offering a “hell yeah” to whether he wants to stay long-term.
  • Morant is also hoping to avoid offseason surgery on his knee, as relayed by the Memphis Commerical Appeal. The 22-year-old suffered a bone bruise in Game 3 of the Grizzlies‘ second-round series against Golden State. He didn’t play for the rest of the series.
  • The Timberwolves have declined to pick up their option on assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci‘s contract for next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who explores what the team’s recent front office changes say about Sachin Gupta‘s future with the organization. Minnesota agreed this week to hire Steve Senior as an assistant GM.

Northwest Notes: Gasol, Malone, Paul, Rohan

Trail Blazers center Pau Gasol is hopeful he’ll be ready to play by opening night, Joe Freeman of the Oregonian tweets.  Gasol underwent surgery in May to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. He’s scheduled to begin contact work this week and is happy how his rehab is coming along, Freeman relays. Gasol signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Blazers to provide depth at the center spot as Jusuf Nurkic mends from a serious leg injury.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • After reaching the Western Conference Semifinals last season, the Nuggets find themselves in an unfamiliar role as the hunted, coach Michael Malone told website writer Eric Spyropoulos. “Because of the season that we had, we have to know that we’re going to be a team that’s hunted, unlike being the hunter last season,” Malone said. “We can’t just relax. Things can change quickly in the NBA, so we can’t just show up and think we’ll go from point A to B.”
  • Chris Paul isn’t pouting, at least not publicly, about being on a rebuilding Thunder team after being traded from the contending Rockets, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reports. Paul took a positive tone during the team’s Media Day. “It’s funny, because a lot people try to tell your truth or your story and say what you want, all this different type stuff,” Paul said. “I’m excited about the opportunity, excited about our team, excited about building.”
  • The Timberwolves have promoted Emmanuel Rohan to assistant GM, according to a team press release. Assistant GM Gianluca Pascucci will have the added responsibilities of GM of the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate.

Wolves Hire Gianluca Pascucci As Assistant GM

MAY 30: The Timberwolves have issued a press release officially confirming the hiring of Pascucci, who will lead the team’s personnel efforts and be fully involved with all player personnel matters, according to the announcement.

“I’m excited to bring Gianluca Pascucci to the Timberwolves as our assistant general manager,” Rosas said in a statement. “I’ve seen firsthand his drive, passion and knowledge of the game. Gianluca offers a diverse perspective from his time as an executive overseas and his experience on multiple professional platforms.

“He will bring a global perspective on how we will build our team and his experience with developmental programs will be a big asset as we look to fully maximize the Iowa Wolves as a natural extension of the Timberwolves. He will be a phenomenal asset to our franchise and another great partner as we build a world-class organization.”

MAY 20: In addition to making the decision to retain Ryan Saunders as their permanent head coach, the Timberwolves have reached an agreement to hire Nets executive Gianluca Pascucci, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Pascucci will serve as an assistant GM under new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas in Minnesota.

Pascucci, who held the position of director of global scouting in Brooklyn’s front office, had been viewed as a candidate for a promotion after the Nets lost assistant GM Trajan Langdon to the Pelicans. Instead, he’ll reunite with Rosas, with whom he worked in the Rockets’ front office before he joined the Nets in 2016.

While it looks like a solid hire for the Timberwolves, it’s another blow to the Nets’ front office. In addition to having lost Langdon and Pascucci, Brooklyn has also seen coaches Chris Fleming and Will Weaver leave the organization this spring, so the club will have plenty of holes to fill in both the front office and coaching staff.

Pascucci reportedly received consideration for a position with Italian and EuroLeague club Pallacanestro Olimpia Milano before agreeing to take a job with the Wolves.

Nets Face Management Makeover

Trajan Langdon’s decision to become the new GM in New Orleans represents the third major off-court loss for Brooklyn since the season ended, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Langdon, the Nets’ former assistant GM and the reigning G League Executive of the Year, has been a popular candidate to move up the management ranks. He recently interviewed for jobs with the Timberwolves and Wizards, as well as the Pelicans.

The time Langdon spent as a player in Europe only adds to his value, Lewis notes. He has wide-ranging contacts throughout the continent and speaks five languages. He also has a scouting background with the Spurs and was responsible for assembling the Nets’ draft board.

Lewis sees Gianluca Pascucci, who serves as the Nets’ director of global scouting, as the leading choice to step into Langdon’s role. However, he is also reportedly a candidate to become GM at Olimpia Milano in the EuroLeague.

Brooklyn’s other offseason losses were  G League coach Will Weaver, who left for a job with Sydney in the Australian League after leading Long Island to the championship game, and Chris Fleming, who left the Nets’ coaching staff to become the lead assistant to Jim Boylen in Chicago.

Lewis mentions ex-Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek as a possibility to replace Fleming. Hornacek joined the Nets for training camp, practices and some road trips and may be interested in taking an official position with the team.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, McHale, Nets, Knicks

Marcus Smart is expected to join his Celtics teammates for practice tomorrow, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. It will be Smart’s first on-court action since suffering an oblique tear last month.

Although Smart will be a full participant, the session won’t include contact as coach Brad Stevens plans to give the team a break ahead of Monday’s Game 4 against the Bucks.

“I’m going to talk to our training staff [on Saturday], and then, [Sunday], all indication is he will go through our practice,” Stevens said. “I’m writing up our practice plan now, and I don’t have any live drills on it, so if he does [contact work], it’ll probably be before or after practice, if that’s his next step.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former teammate Kevin McHale reached out to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge after he suffered a mild heart attack this week, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. McHale, who has previous front office experience with the Timberwolves, can relate to the pressure of running a team. “It’s a stressful job, but I would say Danny has probably got the best perspective of anyone in the league on that job and what’s going on,” McHale said. “… I think having Austin [his son is the Celtics’ director of player personnel] working there with him, I can just tell how much he enjoys it and how well they work together.”
  • Gianluca Pascucci, who serves as director of global scouting for the Nets, is being considered for an executive position with AC Milano in Italy, but the organization may try to hold on to him, tweets NetsDaily. Pascucci could be a candidate for assistant GM in Brooklyn if Trajan Langdon leaves. Langdon was considered for front office positions with the Timberwolves and Pelicans and is rumored to be a candidate with the Wizards.
  • Las Vegas oddsmakers are expecting a huge summer for the Knicks, writes David Purdum of ESPN. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas has given New York 16-1 odds to win next season’s title, trailing just the Bucks, Celtics and Sixers in the East. Jeff Sherman, who oversees the Superbook’s NBA odds, told Purdum they are based on the Knicks being the favorites to land Kevin Durant in free agency. He adds that New York would be about a 300-1 shot without Durant.

And-Ones: Motiejunas, Deng, Jokic

The Nets signed Donatas Motiejunas to an offer sheet on Friday and the timing of it was no accident, Marc Stein of writes. Brooklyn hopes that by waiting until after November 23 to sign Motiejunas, the Rockets will further consider not matching, as that was the last day they could have signed him and still been allowed to trade him this season. If Houston matches now, the big man can’t be traded for a full year without his consent.

Stein also notes that Brooklyn hired former longtime Rockets executive Gianluca Pascucci as its director of international scouting during the offseason and there’s likely a correlation between the hiring of Pascucci and the Nets offer to Motiejunas.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Luol Deng is struggling in his first season with the Lakers and the chatter about whether he fits in on Los Angeles’ young, promising team is expected to continue, Stein adds in the same piece. Deng signed a four-year, $72MM deal with the team in the offseason.
  • Nikola Jokic will miss at least a week as he recovers from a sprained wrist, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. “Talking to Nikola, he wants to play right when he can catch the ball,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I think we’ll probably be a little more cautious than that on this road trip, maybe get it looked at again just to kind of see where it’s at once the swelling goes down.”
  • Jake Rauchbach of Basketball Insiders examines how Russell Westbrook and James Harden are producing eye-popping numbers on the Thunder and Rockets, respectively. Both players signed extensions with their respective teams this offseason.

Rockets Owner Became More Involved In 2016 Roster Moves

Following a disappointing 2015/16 season, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander took on a larger role in his team’s roster-building process this summer, sources familiar with the process tell Zach Lowe of According to Lowe, Alexander was “eager to rebound at any cost” after Houston underachieved last season.

Alexander’s increased involvement signals that Daryl Morey‘s hold on the general manager job may not be as secure as it once was, league sources tell Lowe. For his part, Morey says he doesn’t “feel more or less pressure” in his GM role than he has in previous years. However, Lowe suggests that the Rockets’ dismissal of former VP of player personnel Gianluca Pascucci earlier this year was “widely seen as a shot across the bow at Morey.” The GM says that decision was his.

As Lowe observes, the Rockets took a different approach to roster-building this summer than they have in the past under Morey. The team has typically made an effort to add another star or two to a roster headed by James Harden. However, as they lost Dwight Howard in free agency this July, the Rockets instead opted to use their cap room to sign solid – and expensive – complementary players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Houston still wanted to add star power, and will keep an eye out for a top player going forward, but Morey suggests that last year’s disappointing showing had an impact on the club’s ability to recruit top-tier players this summer.

“Last year hurt us in terms of perception around the league,” Morey said. “We felt like if we didn’t have a more successful season this year, our ability to be a top destination would be hurt. … We had a choice: keep our powder dry and value play, or go for two blue-chip players past the obvious superstars. It was a tough cap environment. You have to spend the money on someone.”

According to Lowe, Morey and the Rockets believe players like Anderson, Gordon, and others will thrive this season in Mike D’Antoni’s system, boosting their trade value. So Houston will be a team worth watching at February’s trade deadline. If Morey’s bet doesn’t pay off, it will also be worth keeping an eye on whether his grip on his GM job grows more tenuous.

Nets Hire Gianluca Pascucci, BJ Johnson

The Nets continue to reshape their front office under general manager Sean Marks, announcing today in a press release that they’ve added two more executives to their current group. Brooklyn has hired Gianluca Pascucci as the club’s director of global scouting, and BJ Johnson as coordinator of player evaluation.

“We are thrilled to add Gianluca and BJ to our front office,” Marks said in a statement. “Collectively, they bring valuable experiences that cross many platforms and their extensive knowledge of both the NBA and the global game will be tremendous assets to our scouting department. Both will be excellent additions to our culture and we are excited about welcoming them to Brooklyn.”

As Marks points out, the Nets’ new additions have basketball experience on a national and international level. Pascucci, who is coming off a stint as the Rockets’ VP of player personnel, and the GM of the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, previously spent several years with Italian team Olimpia Milano, acting as the team’s CEO and GM. Pascucci also has a previous stint in Houston as the Rockets’ international scout.

As for Johnson, he has worked for the last several years as USA Basketball’s assistant men’s national team director, and has held a variety of other roles in both the men’s and women’s USA Basketball programs.

Marks has only been on the job in Brooklyn for about six months, having been hired in February as the Nets’ new general manager. However, he has made significant changes to the team’s front office during his time with the franchise. Per NetsDaily (via Twitter), today’s additions bring the total number of new staff members hired by the Nets since Marks’ arrival to 25.