Jay Hernandez

Atlantic Notes: Batum, Nets, Ex-Raptors, Celtics-Cavs

Sixers forward Nicolas Batum kept things fairly open when it came to talk of his potential NBA retirement, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 35-year-old is now a free agent, having wrapped up his two-year, $22.6MM contract at the end of Philadelphia’s 2023/24 season. There were rumors prior to the season that it could be his last in the NBA.

Batum told gathered media that he is, for now, just thinking about playing for his native Team France in this year’s Paris Olympics. He then reflected on his initial impressions of the Sixers.

“One thing I’ve learned is Philly is not for everybody, though,” Batum said. “You’ve got to be ready to play for that city, and I loved it. … I could feel the passion of this city for sports, for the Sixers. And I [felt] it right away, my first game against the Wizards. I [came] in and could feel it… And those fans, even when they’re not happy, you get booed, but I understand why. … I tried to [say to myself], ‘OK, they’re right. Because we suck right now, so we’ve got to play better.’”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets are set to retain assistant coach Jay Hernandez under new head coach Jordi Fernandez, but will be parting ways with assistants Will Weaver and Ronnie Burrell, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • A pair of beloved former Raptors championship-era teammates, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, are set to square off against one another for the first team in an impending matchup between the former’s Knicks and the latter’s Pacers, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “Yeah, it’ll be weird,” Anunoby said this weekend. “I never played against him. He’s always been my teammate, so it’ll be weird, but it’ll be cool, I’m sure. He’s looking forward to it, too.”
  • The NBA has revealed its full schedule for the Celtics’ second-round series against the Cavaliers. Game 1 will tip off on Tuesday, in Boston, at 6 p.m. CT via TNT. They’ll meet again for Game 2 on Thursday, at the same time, on ESPN. The series will move to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday, and will start a bit later, at 7:30 p.m. CT, on ABC. A start time for Monday’s Game 4 has yet to be announced.

Nets Officially Announce Changes To Coaching Staff

The Nets were among the teams to make an in-season coaching change this past season, replacing Steve Nash with Jacque Vaughn in November. Even though he spent nearly the entire 2022/23 season running the Nets, Vaughn didn’t get a chance to reshape his coaching staff until this spring.

Vaughn is taking advantage of that opportunity, with the Nets issuing a press release on Tuesday to formally announce several changes to their coaching staff.

The new additions, some of which were previously reported, are as follows:

  • Kevin Ollie (assistant coach), the former head coach of UConn and Overtime Elite.
  • Will Weaver (assistant coach), who has coached the Sydney Kings and (this past season) Paris Basketball internationally. He’s also a veteran NBA assistant who had a previous stint in Brooklyn as a Nets assistant (2016-18) and coach of the Long Island Nets (2018/19).
  • Jay Hernandez (assistant coach), who was an assistant coach and the director of player development with the Hornets for the past five seasons.
  • Ronnie Burrell (assistant coach), the head coach of the Long Island Nets in 2022/23.
  • Corey Vinson (assistant coach/player development), a former player development coach with the Suns.

According to today’s announcement, the Nets will retain assistant coach and director of player development Adam Caporn, as well as assistants Trevor Hendry and Ryan Forehan-Kelly. They all worked under Nash and will be holdovers under Vaughn as he prepares for his first full season as Brooklyn’s head coach.

Coaching Rumors: Rivers, Sixers, Rockets, Nets, Vogel, More

As the Sixers enter the offseason, there’s a sense that James Harden‘s and Doc Rivers‘ futures are linked, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne explained during an appearance on NBA Today (podcast link). The star guard will become a free agent if he declines his 2023/24 player option, while the head coach finds himself on the hot seat after another second-round playoff exit for Philadelphia.

“James Harden can become a free agent, which means you have to decide if you want to give him a four-year contract. Do you want to lock this in for the next four years?” Shelburne said (hat tip to RealGM). “That decision, from what I understand talking to people around the (Sixers), also now becomes tied to the decision about Doc Rivers. Because James Harden was not all that supportive of Doc Rivers in his press conference (on Sunday). I think behind the scenes, from what I’m told, one person said, ‘It would be hard for me to see James wanting to come back and play for Doc again.’

“This is going to be a situation where those two decisions are linked. As we go forward into this offseason and you have another second round exit, you have to decide if you want to lock in your future around (Joel Embiid and Harden). And then, if you’re doing that, what does that mean for Doc Rivers? Because the decisions seem to be linked.”

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to a handful of NBA executives and scouts at this week’s draft combine to get an idea of which head coaching candidates the Sixers might look at if they do decide to move on from Rivers.

Multiple execs identified Nick Nurse as a logical fit, according to Scotto, who says there’s also been a sense for some time that Mike D’Antoni would be an option due to his longtime relationship with Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. A couple sources named Monty Williams as a possible target too, but he’s drawing interest from multiple teams and may have a more favorable opportunity available, Scotto notes.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • As the Rockets look to fill Ime Udoka‘s coaching staff, it’s worth keeping an eye on Celtics assistants Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan and Nets assistant Royal Ivey as potential targets, league sources tell Scotto.
  • The Nets are hiring Jay Hernandez as an assistant coach, according to Scotto. Hernandez worked in recent years as an assistant in Charlotte and was previously a member of Jacque Vaughn‘s staff in Orlando.
  • Will Weaver, a former NBA assistant who is currently coaching Paris Basketball, has drawn interest from multiple NBA teams this offseason, including the Nets and Raptors, reports Scotto.
  • If veteran coach Frank Vogel doesn’t get a head coaching opportunity this spring, he’ll be a popular target for teams seeking an experienced assistant. He has received interest from the Mavericks, according to Scotto, who adds that Vogel and Stephen Silas could be targets for the Celtics.

And-Ones: Garza, Robinson, USA Basketball, G League

Luka Garza projects as a second-unit center who can beat up reserve bigs with his offensive skills, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link). While Garza is the most dominant scorer in college basketball this season, his defensive limitations will prove problematic at the next level. A best-case scenario would be for Garza to develop into an Enes Kanter-type player. ESPN currently ranks Garza as the 46th-best prospect in this year’s draft.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson has parted ways with Bahcesehir in Turkey, he told JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). It’s a matter of seeking another opportunity, with the 29-year-old looking to return to playing as soon as possible. He played 313 NBA games with six teams in 2012-17.
  • USA Basketball is planning to create a “bubble” in Las Vegas for Team USA, Australia and Spain where they can train and play exhibition games against one another prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Team USA is tentatively planning to open training camp the week of July 4 while the NBA playoffs are ongoing.
  • USA Basketball has petitioned the U.S. Olympic Committee, the IOC and FIBA — which runs the Olympic basketball tournament —  to change the rules for when rosters for the Games must be submitted, Windhorst adds in the same report. Normally, the rosters must be set several weeks in advance but the NBA playoffs may not end until three days prior to Team USA’s first Olympic game.
  • Greensboro Swarm head coach Jay Hernandez provides details in a HoopsHype post on how his team is preparing for the G League season in Orlando while under quarantine.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Okongwu, Fultz, Hornets

The Wizards are promoting Amber Nichols, naming her the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go, Washington’s G League affiliate, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Nichols, who had previously been the Go-Go’s assistant GM, becomes the second female general manager in the NBAGL, joining Tori Miller of the College Park Skyhawks.

The Capital City Go-Go opted out of this season’s G League bubble, so the team won’t be in action again until 2021/22. However, Nichols figures to be keeping a close eye in the coming weeks on the Erie BayHawks, New Orleans’ affiliate. The Wizards are sending four affiliate players and a player development coach to Erie for the upcoming NBAGL season.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Onyeka Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, has yet to make his NBA debut as he recovers from a left foot injury. However, he’s not on the Hawks‘ latest injury report, and Sarah Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) says Okongwu is excited to get back on the court. Now I’m really feeling good,” he said. “Now I’m really feeling like my old self.”
  • Magic officials and players have said that Markelle Fultz has remained upbeat as he begins the long process of coming back from a torn ACL, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “I think he’s got a great attitude about the whole thing,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “Let’s put it this way: He’s handling his injury a lot better than his coach is.”
  • Hornets assistant Jay Hernandez will be heading to the G League bubble to coach the Greensboro Swarm next month, according to a press release from the team. Hernandez will return to the Hornets when the NBAGL season ends. “This plays to my strengths, and is also something I want and need to do,” Hernandez told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “… I know all (the Hornets’) teaching points, I know the talking points. I can go in there very confidently, knowing exactly what (Hornets coach James Borrego) wants to do and how he wants to do it.”

Hornets Notes: Monk, Staff, Bacon, Parker

After undertaking a limited and somewhat disappointing role last season as a rookie, second-year guard Malik Monk has been told by the Hornets’ new coaching staff that he needs to make quicker, more decisive choices with the ball in order to maximize his talent and athleticism, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

Monk, 20, was selected 11th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft before suffering an ankle sprain that cost him summer league work before his first NBA training camp. Due in part to that lack of experience, Monk was in and out of the Hornets’ rotation all season long, finishing with an average of 6.7 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the field.

But despite whatever troubles he may have experienced during his rookie season, Monk will have plenty of opportunity to step into a bigger role this season, per head coach James Borrego.

“Malik Monk is a major player for us next (season)… I knew he was a shooter but being up close to him is impressive. This guy has a chance to be an elite shooter, a very consistent shooter. Someone we can play through for different stretches of a game.”

As for how Monk feels about Borrego and the new coaching staff, the good feelings seem to be mutual, with Monk saying, “I love them. They’re opening up the court for me and giving me a chance. That’s what I’ve been looking for.”

There’s more out of Charlotte this evening:

  • Speaking of the new coaching staff, the Hornets have officially hired Jay Triano, Chad Iske, Jay Hernandez, Ronald Nored, and Dutch Gaitley as assistant coaches under Borrego, per an official press release from the team.
  • Another young player the Hornets believe in is second-year player Dwayne Bacon, Bonnell notes in another piece. The new staff believes that Bacon, the 40th overall selection in last year’s draft, is both talented offensively and versatile defensively and that he will benefit from an increased pace of play.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the Hornets may be in the market for another guard to play alongside Monk and All-Star Kemba Walker, with free agent guard Tony Parker no longer necessarily a lock to return to San Antonio.

Coaching Notes: Hornets, Hawks, Bucks, Blatt

After reaching an agreement to hire former Suns head coach Jay Triano as a top assistant, the Hornets are adding another coach to James Borrego‘s new staff in Charlotte. According to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link), former Magic assistant Jay Hernandez has agreed to a deal with the Hornets.

Hernandez, who had been working under Frank Vogel in Orlando, was let go at the same time Vogel was fired by the Magic last month. Hernandez’s name surfaced as one to watch in New York when David Fizdale was hired, but he’ll land in Charlotte instead, teaming up with Borrego and Triano on the Hornets’ new-look bench.

Here are a few more coaching-related updates from around the basketball world:

  • Lloyd Pierce has begun to fill out his coaching staff in Atlanta, with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reporting that former Mavericks assistant Melvin Hunt will join the Hawks at Pierce’s lead assistant, while former Suns assistant Marlon Garnett will also be part of the team’s staff. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the Hawks were in advanced discussions with Hunt.
  • Many of the Hawks‘ former assistants are preparing to relocate to Milwaukee along with Mike Budenholzer, leaving the Bucks‘ old staff in the lurch. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times looks at what’s next for those Bucks assistants.
  • Darussafaka head coach David Blatt is receiving some interest from EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, according to a report from La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Blatt, who interviewed for multiple NBA coaching jobs this spring, has an extensive international résumé that includes a stint as head coach of the Russian national team.
  • At Sportando, Carchia passes along another La Gazzetta dello Sport story, as the Italian outlet reports that Sergio Scariolo – the coach of Spain’s national team – is pursuing an opportunity to become an assistant in the NBA.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Hernandez, Mudiay, Kanter

Building a productive relationship with Kristaps Porzingis and devising a plan for his three point guards are among the questions facing new Knicks coach David Fizdale, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Fizdale plans to travel to Latvia in the near future to meet with his franchise player, who is rehabbing his knee injury there.

Juggling the minutes of Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke will be a challenge for the ex-Grizzlies coach, Berman continues. Learning from his mistakes in Memphis, particularly in the way he dealt with veteran center Marc Gasol, is another thing Fizdale must do in order to be a success in New York, Berman adds.

In other Knicks-related news:

  • Former Magic assistant coach Jay Hernandez is a name to watch as Fizdale selects his staff, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. He has a solid reputation in player development and player relationships after working with several NBA players as a trainer, Scotto adds.
  • Mudiay said the coaching change has energized the team, as he told Berman in a separate story. “Nobody has played with him yet over here except Troy Williams. But I’m not the only one excited. Everyone else is, too,’’ he said. Mudiay believes Fizdale, a point guard during his playing days, can help with his development.
  • Center Enes Kanter, who exchanged barbs with LeBron James this season, playfully challenged the Cavaliers superstar to sign with the Knicks during a Twitter Q&A session, Ian Begley of ESPN relays. “You really want to be king of New York? Come and prove it. I’ll see you July 1st, brother,” Kanter said in the Twitter video. James is expected to opt out of his contract this summer but the Knicks are an extreme long shot, considering their salary-cap issues and their rebuilding status.

Magic Fire Frank Vogel

The Magic are making a change at head coach, announcing today in a press release that they’ve parted ways with Frank Vogel. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report that Vogel has been fired.

“We would like to thank Frank for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “We appreciate the sacrifices he made as head coach and certainly wish him and his family well going forward.”

In addition to Vogel, lead assistant coach Chad Forcier and assistants Corliss Williamson and Jay Hernandez have also been let go by the Magic, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

Like Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, who was also fired once the 2017/18 regular season came to an end, Vogel was hired just two years ago but found himself on the hot seat after his team overhauled its front office during the 2017 offseason. Having been brought aboard by former head of basketball operations Rob Hennigan, Vogel will be replaced by Weltman and new GM John Hammond, who will hire their own candidate in the near future.

After compiling a 250-181 record (.580) with five playoff appearances during six years as the head coach of the Pacers, Vogel was unable to replicate that success in Orlando. His team failed to reach 30 wins in either of his two seasons — overall, the Magic had a 54-110 mark (.329) during Vogel’s tenure.

The Magic will begin a search for a new head coach immediately. Previous reports have linked the franchise to various candidates with Toronto connections — Raptors assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian have been identified as possible targets for Orlando, and Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse has been cited multiple times as a viable candidate. Weltman was the general manager in Toronto before arriving in Orlando.

The Magic are the fifth NBA team known to be seeking a permanent head coach this offseason, joining the Suns, Grizzlies, Bucks, and Knicks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.