James Borrego

Eastern Notes: Atkinson, Cavs, Wizards, Wagner, Hawks, More

Discussing the Cavaliers‘ head coaching search this week on an episode of the No Cap Room podcast (YouTube link), Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports described Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as the candidate who “seems to be the leader in the clubhouse right now.” Atkinson has also been linked to another coaching search this spring, according to Fischer.

“Kenny Atkinson was definitely a name involved in the Wizards‘ search,” Fischer said. “… There was definitely expectation around the league that Kenny’s next job would be one of those more developmental teams on the up-and-up, which in theory Cleveland still kind of is, but there are obvious expectations there now. So that would be a much different circumstance – probably a better circumstance, I would say – for Kenny Atkinson, to shed that ‘I’m a rebuild guy’ label.”

Fischer confirms that James Borrego of the Pelicans and Johnnie Bryant of the Knicks are a couple more assistant coaches who are candidates for the Cavaliers’ job, citing Bryant’s connection to Donovan Mitchell dating back to their time in Utah together.

According to Fischer, former Sacramento head coach Dave Joerger is another candidate who will receive consideration from Cleveland. Joerger was hired by the Bucks as an assistant coach after Doc Rivers joined the team earlier this year.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Franz Wagner won’t soon forget his performance in Orlando’s Game 7 first-round loss to Cleveland (six points on 1-of-15 shooting), but his goal is to turn it into a learning experience rather than beating himself up about it, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “That’s going to stick with me all summer,” Wagner said. “Hopefully, I can use it as motivation and fuel that the right way.” As Beede observes, Wagner will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, and while the Magic will likely look to lock him up, it remains to be seen whether the team is prepared to go up to the max to get something done before the 22-year-old’s fourth NBA season.
  • In a 2024 draft class considered to lack star power, whichever player is selected with the No. 1 overall pick will benefit from not being asked to single-handedly turn a franchise around. As Marc J. Spears of ESPN pointed out on the Hawks Report podcast (link via Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the No. 1 pick will be joining a Hawks roster that features more talent than a typical club drafting in that spot. Even if Atlanta trades one of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason, the team would still have one former All-Star in its backcourt, along with promising 22-year-old Jalen Johnson at forward.
  • The WNBA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted this week to approve an expansion franchise for Toronto, while the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 29-1 in favor of the move, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Unsurprisingly, as Wojnarowski details, the only opposing vote belonged to the Knicks, who sued the Raptors last season and remain engaged in a legal battle with their Atlantic rivals. Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum is spearheading Toronto’s new WNBA franchise.

Cavaliers Fire Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff

9:53am: The Cavaliers have confirmed Bickerstaff’s dismissal (Twitter link).

9:27am: The Cavaliers have fired head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego are expected to be among candidates for the job, Charania adds.

Despite the fact Cleveland advanced out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Bickerstaff’s dismissal doesn’t come as a surprise. A report from The Athletic last week indicated Bickerstaff’s job was in “serious jeopardy.”

That report indicated that star guard Donovan Mitchell, who is eligible for a four-year extension this offseason, “did not have great confidence in Bickerstaff” throughout the season, and he was “not alone.” It also suggested that a number of players privately and publicly questioned the 45-year-old’s “strategies, game management, practice habits and accountability measures” during the course of the season.

Another incident in the report spoke of how president of basketball operations Koby Altman “admonished Bickerstaff in front of his entire staff” after he played Mitchell heavy minutes in a December overtime victory with two other starters already sidelined by injuries.

Bickerstaff said after his team was eliminated for the postseason that he wanted to return and considered this season an improvement.

To win a round in the playoffs isn’t easy,” he said. “I thought we faced a tough challenge in that first round, obviously, and to be able to go to seven games and win it showed a ton of growth. I think the play of our guys continued to show their growth. You guys will judge what success looks like. I think we accomplished what we were trying to accomplish but coming up short of a goal of obviously winning a championship.”

The Cavs will begin an immediate search for Bickerstaff’s replacement, with Altman and general manager Mike Gansey formulating a list that is expected to include coaches with head-coaching experience and potential first-timers, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reports.

According to Fedor, the Cavs considered making a coaching change during the first month of the season after they got off to a slow start.

Despite the supposed internal turmoil, there’s reportedly growing optimism that Mitchell will sign an extension this offseason. Whether a coaching change impacts that in any way remains to be seen.

Bickerstaff became the Cavaliers’ head coach in February 2020 after John Beilein‘s brief stay in the NBA. The Cavaliers went 22-50 in his first full season as head coach and doubled that win total in a full 82-game season in 2021/22.

The Cavs racked up 51 regular season wins in 2022/23 but were bounced by the Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs. Cleveland won 48 games this season and defeated Orlando in the opening round but got eliminated in five games by top-seeded Boston in the second round. Mitchell missed the last two games due to a calf injury and center Jarrett Allen sat out the entire series with a rib injury.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Lakers’ Coaching Search, M. Brown, Suns

After being eliminated in the play-in tournament, the Warriors know they’ll have to improve their defense to get back into title contention, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. That may include roster changes to bring in players who are more defensive-minded.

“It’s not just about scheme and personnel,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s also about how much better the rest of the league is. And how much different things are with the shooting and the pace. It’s just much, much harder to guard. There’s a reason the offensive ratings have skyrocketed. But there’s no doubt we’ve got to be better defensively. We were good at a lot of things. We were. We were, not surprisingly, excellent when Draymond (Green) was healthy.”

Suspensions and injuries caused Green to miss 27 games this season, which had a sharp impact on the team’s defensive numbers. Poole points out that the Warriors had a 113.5 defensive rating with Green, which would have ranked 11th in the league. It fell to 121.1 when he wasn’t available, the worst mark in the NBA.

“But we can’t just say, ‘Well, as long as Draymond’s healthy we will be fine defensively,'” Kerr added. “We’ve just got to be better. I’ve got to do a better job. Our staff has got to do a better job. We have to assess everything.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are moving slowly in their head coaching search and are getting acquainted with several candidates they didn’t interview before hiring Darvin Ham two years ago, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). He cites examples such as Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Pelicans assistant James Borrego and ESPN broadcaster J.J. Redick. Wojnarowski expects a lengthy hiring process, saying, “There’s no obvious choice, there just isn’t. There’s no star coach out there available.”
  • Mike Brown has proven he deserves an extension in his first two seasons as head coach of the Kings, contends James Ham of The Kings Beat (subscription required). Brown is entering the last year of his contract, and Ham believes the team should take care of him soon to avoid any speculation about his future.
  • Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein, who played a role in purchasing the franchise’s former G League affiliate when he was working for the Pistons, helped to unveil its replacement today, notes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The Valley Suns give Phoenix a G League partner for the first time since 2021 when the Northern Arizona Suns were sold to Detroit and renamed the Motor City Cruise. “Ironically enough, I was the one on the other side buying the team from the Suns and getting it to Detroit, and now three years later, I’m here,” Bartelstein said. “It’s really, really important. I mean, the G League is a staple of many NBA franchises.”

Lakers Meet With J.J. Redick, James Borrego, Sam Cassell

The interview portion of the Lakers‘ head coaching search is underway, according to Jovan Buha and Shams Charania of The Athletic, who report that the team has had formal meetings in recent days with ESPN analyst J.J. Redick, Pelicans assistant James Borrego, and Celtics assistant Sam Cassell.

The Lakers also intend to meet with Micah Nori (Timberwolves assistant), David Adelman (Nuggets assistant), and Chris Quinn (Heat assistant), per Buha and Charania.

Of those three, Nori is the only one whose team’s season isn’t over. He has also taken on a larger role on Minnesota’s bench during the postseason due to a knee procedure that has rendered Wolves head coach Chris Finch immobile during games, so scheduling an interview with him will be a little trickier than lining up meetings with Adelman and Quinn.

The Athletic previously referred to Redick, Borrego, and Cassell as the Lakers’ “initial leading targets” in their head coaching search. Since then, multiple reports have indicated that people around the NBA view Redick as the frontrunner for the job.

League sources tell Buha and Charania that the Lakers are “infatuated” with Redick’s potential as a head coach, despite his lack of experience. They view him as a “Pat Riley-like coaching prospect” who could thrive both in the short and long-term, The Athletic’s duo adds.

Redick co-hosts a podcast with Lakers star LeBron James, resulting in speculation that his relationship with LeBron is driving his candidacy in Los Angeles. However, James’ agent Rich Paul has insisted that’s not the case, as we relayed this morning. Redick also reportedly received consideration for the Hornets’ coaching job earlier this spring and interviewed with the Raptors in 2023.

Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney have also been mentioned as possible Lakers candidates in recent weeks, but neither was mentioned in The Athletic’s latest report.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Lakers, Jackson-Davis, Beal

The idea that LeBron James will be a driving force in choosing the Lakers‘ next head coach is inaccurate, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who said during an appearance on FanDuel’s Run it Back show on Monday that the star forward has had no involvement in the process so far (Twitter video link).

“I’m told LeBron James is not involved in the Lakers’ head coaching search,” Charania said. “… (He) has made it clear this is the organization’s decision. He’s had no conversations with the Laker about J.J. Redick, his podcast partner. He’s had no conversations with J.J. about that position as well.

“I did speak to (James’ agent) Rich Paul this morning. He said, ‘LeBron James and J.J. Redick, they do a podcast together. That does not mean that he wants J.J. Redick as his head coach.’ He’s leaving it up to the organization.”

Previous reports have indicated that the Lakers will more heavily weigh Anthony Davis‘ future and input as they decide on a new head coach, since the expectation is that Davis’ time in Los Angeles will extend beyond that of James, who will turn 40 later this year.

Charania reiterated that point during his Run it Back segment, noting that Davis has “built a rapport” with James Borrego. While Charania cites Davis and Borrego overlapping during their stints with the Pelicans, it’s worth noting that Borrego left New Orleans for Orlando during the 2012 offseason, which is when Davis was drafted, so any overlap was very brief. Borrego returned to the Pelicans in 2023 as an assistant on Willie Green‘s staff.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • In a column for The Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke makes it clear he’s not a fan of the idea of the Lakers hiring Redick, writing that it would “not only be one of the oddest Lakers coaching hires in a long list of them…but it might also be the first talk-show driven head coaching hire in NBA history.”
  • Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski, who was named to the All-Rookie first team on Monday, believes his teammate Trayce Jackson-Davis should have joined him in receiving All-Rookie recognition, writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Jackson-Davis narrowly missed earning a spot on the second team, finishing 11th among vote-getters, a single point behind Grizzlies forward GG Jackson. “Just to see from a guard’s perspective (Jackson-Davis’) impact on our games and how he helped us win games this year, I think maybe the voters should take winning into more of an account,” Podziemski said. “It sucks to see him not make it. I think he was well deserving of it.”
  • Could Bradley Beal thrive in a point guard role the same way that Jrue Holiday did under new Suns head coach Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee? Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic weighs that question, considering just how important it is for Phoenix to add a true point guard this offseason.

Spurs Haven’t Shown Much Interest In Trae Young

Trae Young could be an ideal fit for the Spurs. However, San Antonio has thus far shown little interest in acquiring the Hawks point guard, sources tell Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Fischer’s story echoes a couple other reports from the past month that have downplayed the idea of Young ending up in San Antonio.

The Hawks, who unexpectedly landed the top overall pick via the draft lottery, are widely expected to consider trade scenarios that would break up their backcourt of Young and Dejounte Murray. Atlanta scoured the league to gauge interest in all of its players prior to February’s trade deadline with the exception of forward Jalen Johnson, Fischer notes.

San Antonio has no clear long-term floor leader and it’s expected the Spurs will explore their options to find a pick-and-roll partner for Victor Wembanyama. Yet multiple league figures tell Fischer that San Antonio’s interest in trading for Young has been vastly overstated.

The two teams could be doing some business together this summer, whether or not it involves Young. San Antonio holds the No. 4 and No. 8 picks, making it a natural trade partner if the Hawks choose to move down. The franchises, of course, completed the Murray blockbuster two summers ago and Atlanta’s front office duo of general manager Landry Fields and assistant GM Onsi Saleh began their careers in the Spurs’ front office.

As for Young, the Lakers hold some interest in him and now have three first-rounders available to trade. Los Angeles will have to consider other options before committing any type of capital for Young, Fischer adds, though Donovan Mitchell might be off the table if he signs an extension.

The Lakers are still pondering their coaching options and they might wait until next month to make that hire, Fischer confirms in a separate story. That’s primarily due to their interest in J.J. Redick. His current obligation to ESPN/ABC for the network’s postseason schedule and NBA Finals has various insiders under the impression Los Angeles’ search may stretch into June, as Marc Stein previously reported.

The Lakers have numerous candidates on their list, but James Borrego has been widely categorized as the experienced, veteran foil to Redick’s candidacy, Fischer writes. The former Hornets head man and current Pelicans assistant has maintained close ties with Anthony Davis since Davis was a rookie and Borrego was an assistant for the then-Hornets.

In other coaching news, Mike Brown’s contract extension talks with the Kings are expected to center around an eight-figure threshold and a Tom Thibodeau extension with the Knicks is also expected to reach those figures, Fischer notes.

Latest On Lakers’ Head Coaching Search

The Lakers have received permission to interview several assistants from around the NBA for their head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). Wojnarowski reports that Los Angeles has been granted permission to talk to the following candidates:

  • Nuggets assistant David Adelman
  • Pelicans assistant James Borrego
  • Celtics assistant Sam Cassell
  • Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori
  • Heat assistant Chris Quinn

A report on Tuesday from The Athletic indicated that Borrego, Cassell, and J.J. Redick are the “initial leading targets” in the Lakers’ search for Darvin Ham‘s replacement. Because Redick is working as an analyst at ESPN/ABC, L.A. obviously wouldn’t need to seek permission from a rival team to meet with him.

Kenny Atkinson of the Warriors and Sean Sweeney of the Mavericks are the other assistants who have been linked to the Lakers’ open head coaching position. Their omissions from Wojnarowski’s report don’t necessarily mean they’re no longer on Los Angeles’ radar, since Woj’s list isn’t necessarily exhaustive. But Atkinson and Sweeney don’t appear to be among the frontrunners at this point.

Of course, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has been mentioned as the candidate who would be atop the Lakers’ wish list if he were available, but there’s still no indication that the Clips will grant their cross-town rivals permission to talk to Lue, who is under contract for one more year and is expected to discuss an extension this offseason.

In his latest Substack story, Marc Stein also checks in on the Lakers’ coaching search, writing that he’s gotten the “distinct vibe” from insiders gathered at the draft combine in Chicago that if there’s an early favorite for the job, it’s Redick. Several people in coaching circles, Stein says, believe it will be Redick’s job to lose in the interview process.

However, Stein has also heard from league sources that Cassell is a “legitimate candidate to watch.” Like Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Cassell is represented by Klutch Sports. Additionally, Stein notes, the veteran assistant has a reputation for connecting with star players.

If Cassell doesn’t get the Lakers’ job or another head coaching position, the belief is that Doc Rivers will aggressively push to bring him to Milwaukee to join his Bucks coaching staff, Stein reports. Cassell previously served as an assistant under Rivers with both the Clippers and 76ers.

With only one other team (the Wizards) currently in the market for a head coach and Redick expected to finish out the playoffs with ESPN/ABC, there’s an expectation that the Lakers’ search may end up extending well into June, Stein adds.

Sam Cassell Among Lakers’ Head Coaching Candidates

Celtics assistant Sam Cassell is among the candidates to become the Lakers‘ next head coach, according to Shams Charania and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who describe Cassell, James Borrego, and J.J. Redick as the team’s “initial leading targets.” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Borrego and Redick are “names to watch” in Los Angeles’ head coaching search.

A former All-Star and three-time champion as an NBA player, Cassell transitioned to coaching in 2009. He spent five seasons as an assistant with the Wizards before spending the next decade coaching under Doc Rivers, including stints with the Clippers from 2014-20 and the Sixers from 2020-23. He was hired by the Celtics as Joe Mazzulla‘s lead assistant last spring.

According to reports from both Charania and Buha at The Athletic and Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the Lakers’ initial round of head coaching interviews is expected to focus on candidates the franchise doesn’t know as well and hasn’t previously vetted. After speaking to those candidates, the Lakers will move on to talking to the ones they’re more familiar with before eventually narrowing the full group down to a smaller pool of finalists, per ESPN.

In addition to Borrego, Redick, and Cassell, potential candidates like David Adelman, Kenny Atkinson, Micah Nori, Chris Quinn, and Sean Sweeney have been linked to the Lakers. Here’s more on the search:

  • Sources tell Charania and Buha that the Lakers are seeking a coach who can command the locker room and hold players accountable. Their ideal candidate would also “tirelessly game-plan and provide a level of structure and organization,” according to The Athletic. Wojnarowski and McMenamin add that the term “grinder” keeps coming up in Rob Pelinka‘s conversations with people around the league about what he’s looking for.
  • While the Lakers are hoping to have LeBron James around for at least one or two more seasons, they’re “placing a premium” on finding a head coach who can maximize Anthony Davis‘ talents, per Charania and Buha. “This should be more of a hire about AD than LeBron,” one source told The Athletic.
  • Longtime Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is serving as a useful “unofficial resource” for the Lakers during their search process, multiple sources tell The Athletic. Krzyzewski has a level of familiarity with a number of the candidates L.A. is considering, including former Blue Devils sharpshooter Redick.

Woj: James Borrego, J.J. Redick “Names To Watch” In Lakers’ Coaching Search

The Lakers will intensify their search for a new head coach at this week’s Draft Combine in Chicago, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link), who identifies James Borrego and J.J. Redick as “names to watch” in that process.

Borrego currently serves as lead assistant for the Pelicans and helped the team develop a top-10 offense by utilizing Zion Williamson as a point forward, Wojnarowski notes. Borrego was the head coach in Charlotte from 2018-22, compiling a 138-163 record in four seasons. He also went 10-20 as interim coach in Orlando at the end of the 2014/15 season and spent time as an assistant to Gregg Popovich in San Antonio as well.

Redick is a member of ESPN/ABC’s top broadcasting team and has become a prominent media figure since retiring as a player in 2021. Although he doesn’t have any coaching experience, he benefits from a close relationship with Lakers star LeBron James, who serves as his co-host on the “Mind of the Game” podcast.

Lakers officials are expected to begin contacting rival teams this week to request permission to interview their assistant coaches, Woj adds. A report on Saturday identified Timberwolves assistant Micah NoriNuggets assistant David AdelmanMavericks assistant Sean Sweeney, and Heat assistant Chris Quinn as potential candidates, but Nori, Adelman and Sweeney are all still involved with playoff teams.

L.A. will likely conduct a “long search” and interview numerous candidates before hiring its next coach, according to Wojnarowski.

Woj: Clippers Want To Retain Lue, George, Harden

After Darvin Ham was fired this afternoon, a report from The Athletic indicated the Lakers would be interested in Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue if he were made available.

Appearing on NBA Today with Malika Andrews (Twitter video link), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski downplayed the possibility of Lue becoming the Lakers’ coach, suggesting he could remain with Los Angeles’ other team for the foreseeable future.

I don’t believe it’s realistic based on this: Ty Lue still has a year left on his contract,” Wojnarowski said (hat tip to RealGM). “And the Clippers are determined to do a long-term deal with Ty Lue, I’m told. They want him to be their head coach for a very long time. That’s a conversation that will happen after the playoffs are over, but they love the job he did this season. They love the job that he’s done there.

This is an organization that, by all indications, however this series (with Dallas) ends up, wants to re-sign Paul George, James Harden. Try to improve that roster around those two and Kawhi Leonard. And Ty Lue will still be the head coach for them.”

Wojnarowski’s full story regarding Lue, George and Harden can be found right here.

The Lakers tried to hire Lue back in 2019, Wojnarowski noted, but the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a contract. At the time, it was reported that Lue was seeking a larger salary.

Wojnarowski also reiterated a point he previously made, that the Lakers might not go after the biggest available names, such as Mike Budenholzer, for financial reasons.

You may see other candidates who’ve had success as head coaches, a Kenny Atkinson, a James Borrego, coaches of that ilk certainly could be part of this conversation,” Wojnarowski concluded.

Warriors assistant Atkinson, formerly lead coach of the Nets, was another Lakers candidate recently mentioned by The Athletic. Borrego, Charlotte’s former head coach, is a new name to watch. He’s currently an assistant with the Pelicans.

According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha (Twitter link), Celtics assistant Charles Lee is a candidate for the Lakers’ coaching vacancy as well.