Jeff Hornacek

Northwest Notes: Giddey, Jazz, Hornacek, Wolves

The Thunder plan on having guard Josh Giddey available on Saturday – and going forward – while the NBA looks into allegations that he had an improper relationship with a minor, head coach Mark Daigneault told reporters this afternoon (Twitter video link via Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic)

“Just with the information we have at this point, that’s the decision that we’ve made,” Daigneault said when asked why the team feels comfortable keeping Giddey active. “It’s really not even a decision, to be honest with you.”

A Thunder spokesperson later clarified that Daigneault meant the decision on Giddey’s availability isn’t within his jurisdiction and is in the league’s hands, according to Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). Of course, Oklahoma City could decide on its own to hold Giddey out, but it sounds like the team will continue playing him while the investigation is ongoing unless the NBA advises otherwise.

“It’s obviously a league matter at this point,” Daigneault said. “So the ball’s in their court on that.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • There’s good news and bad news for the Jazz on the injury report for Saturday’s game vs. New Orleans, tweets Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah will be without its top two scorers, as forward Lauri Markkanen has been ruled out due to left hamstring soreness while Jordan Clarkson will be unavailable due to an illness. However, the Jazz appear likely to have their starting center back in the lineup, as Walker Kessler, who has missed the last seven games due to a sprained left elbow, has been upgraded to probable.
  • Former Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek remains involved with the organization behind the scenes as a coaching consultant. In a story for The Salt Lake Tribune (subscription required), Larsen explores what that role entails and the impact that Hornacek has had on head coach Will Hardy. “He’s been a really, really good friend and confidant and in some ways like a mentor for me in this role, because he also knows what it’s like to be a head coach and a first-time head coach,” Hardy said. “There are tough moments during the season where sometimes he just offers a ‘Hang in there, you’re doing what you should be doing.’ It’s just a tough stretch over 82 games and so he’s been a really calming influence for me.”
  • The Timberwolves had high hopes that their 2022 trade for Rudy Gobert would help create an elite defense. The results were mixed last season – Minnesota narrowly cracked the top 10 in defensive rating – but it has all come together for the team so far in 2023/24, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune, who takes a closer look at the parts Gobert, head coach Chris Finch, and top defensive assistant coach Elston Turner have played in building one of the league’s best Ds.

Jazz Notes: Point Guard Battle, Collins, Markkanen, More

Jazz head coach Will Hardy anticipates a “vicious” competition for the starting point guard job in training camp, likening the upcoming battle to “the Hunger Games,” writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. As Larsen notes, Collin Sexton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Jordan Clarkson, Kris Dunn, and rookie Keyonte George are all expected to be in the mix.

“Those five guys are gonna go at it at training camp, and I love that. But we’ve got to make sure that it’s within a team construct,” Hardy said. “Individual motives are good and powerful, and we need to lean into those. But we also have to remember that we have 82 games coming, where we’re all wearing the same jersey.”

Many of the Jazz’s backcourt players aren’t traditional point guards, which Hardy says he’ll keep in mind when considering potential lineup combinations and backcourt duos.

“We have a lot of really good guards, and I don’t want to say, ‘You’re the point guard and you’re the (shooting guard).’ I don’t think that fits our group best,” the second-year head coach said. “It’s more about viewing them as pairs. I’m not relying on one person to bring it up each time and sort of initiate what we’re doing. That flexibility is going to be an adjustment for us.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Newcomer John Collins said on Monday that he has found the Jazz’s “lack of ego” and emphasis on playing team basketball “refreshing,” adding that he’s looking forward to getting a fresh start in Utah this season, Larsen writes for The Salt Lake Tribune. “In some ways, I feel like a rookie again,” Collins said. “To meet new staff, new teammates, this new environment … to get myself together in a new city.”
  • Utah added several new pieces to its roster this offseason, including Collins and a trio of first-round picks. It’ll be up to the coaching staff to determine how all those pieces fit together, as Tony Jones of The Athletic details. “I’m really excited to see how training camp plays out, because we’re going to have a lot of internal competition,” general manager Justin Zanik said. “I will say it won’t be all figured out by the beginning of camp. This group has a collective resolve to compete with each other but to also pull for each other and help each other improve and develop. And that will be a season-long thing. There has to be a culture of flexibility among the group, because we have a lot of depth and not everyone can play every night.”
  • In a separate article for The Athletic, Jones takes a closer look at Lauri Markkanen‘s experience completing his mandatory military service for his home country of Finland this offseason. Markkanen believes his time in the military made him more resilient, helped him deal with new situations, and could make him a better leader.
  • Jazz assistant Scott Morrison would be the next man up if Hardy is ejected from a game this season, according to Larsen, who adds (via Twitter) that Jeff Hornacek has remained in his role as a coaching consultant for the club.

Mavericks Notes: LeBron, Irving, Van Gundy, Draft

Although Kyrie Irving‘s desire to have the Mavericks trade for LeBron James is unrealistic, Dallas is a market the Lakers star would consider if he ever decides to leave L.A., Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Sources tell Stein that the Mavs began investigating their chances of landing James last season before they acquired Irving in February. The organization understands that James would have to take the initiative in asking for a trade to Dallas for the move to become possible, according to Stein’s sources.

There’s no indication that James will consider requesting such a deal, Stein adds, with his family settled in Los Angeles and his oldest son committed to play for USC. Stein also points out that instead of trying to break up the team’s foundation of James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers opted to rebuild around them and wound up in the conference finals.

Stein’s theory is that it benefits Irving to show the Mavericks that he might have some value as a recruiter who can attract high-level talent to Dallas. It’s believed throughout the league that Dallas wants to re-sign him to a team-friendly contract, so reaching out to James may be a negotiating ploy.

Stein adds that not much has changed for either the Mavericks or the Lakers since their seasons ended. L.A.’s priority will be to keep free agents Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, while the Mavs plan to re-sign Irving and try to trade their first-round pick for veteran help. Stein cites two sources who told him Monday that Irving is happy in Dallas and wants to stay there.

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Dallas will reach out to ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy to see if he is interested in returning to the sidelines as an assistant coach, Stein reports in another Substack piece. Van Gundy’s last NBA coaching job was 16 years ago, but he has done some international work with Team USA since then. League sources tell Stein that the Mavericks still have interest in adding Jeff Hornacek to Jason Kidd’s staff.
  • Tim Cato of The Athletic looks at seven potential trades the Mavs could make with their No. 10 pick. He proposes deals with the Raptors, Hawks, Nets, Kings and Pelicans.
  • If the Mavericks keep their pick, the new front office will focus more on athleticism and physicality more than shooting or other skills, Cato adds in a separate story. Team and league sources tell Cato that Dallas isn’t likely to have interest in Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick, who may still be on the board in that range.

Stein’s Latest: Bridges, Udoka, Raptors, Mavericks, Silas

Rival front offices are expecting Miles Bridges to re-sign with the Hornets this summer, Marc Stein states in his latest Substack article. Bridges, who will be suspended for the first 10 games of next season, didn’t play this year after being charged with felony domestic abuse for a June 2022 incident. Stein adds that in announcing the suspension, commissioner Adam Silver cited a mutual agreement between league officials and Bridges’ representatives at Klutch Sports that resulted in him sitting out the 2022/23 season.

Stein notes that Charlotte has a June 29 deadline to tender a $7.7MM qualifying offer that will make him a restricted free agent. One indication of Bridges’ possible intentions, Stein adds, is an online photo of himself that he recently posted wearing Hornets gear during a workout.

Bridges was expected to be one of the top names on the 2022 free agent market before the domestic abuse case. He became a full-time starter during his fourth NBA season and averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 80 games.

There’s more from Stein:

  • Ime Udoka, who was hired as the Rockets‘ new head coach last week, was on a similar hiatus from the league. Udoka was suspended for the season by the Celtics following an affair with a subordinate, and although there was no official punishment from the NBA, the league office agreed with the way Boston handled the situation, Stein adds. “The Celtics decided that he should be suspended for a year,” Silver said. “We reviewed that and determined it was fair under those circumstances. And then when other teams — and it wasn’t just the Rockets — asked us if he would be able to coach next season, we said he would be.” 
  • The Raptors had interest in hiring Udoka to replace Nick Nurse, but they intended to conduct a thorough coaching search that would last well into May, sources tell Stein. When the Rockets made a four-year offer reportedly worth $28.5MM, Udoka thought it was best to take that opportunity.
  • The Mavericks are expected to consider James Borrego and Jeff Hornacek for openings on Jason Kidd‘s staff. Stein adds that Frank Vogel would be a logical addition because Kidd worked for him with the Lakers, but Vogel is still pursuing head coaching opportunities. Stein mentions former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts as another possibility for Dallas.
  • The Celtics would like to hire ex-Rockets head coach Stephen Silas as an assistant to Joe Mazzulla next season, sources tell Stein. Silas was seen in Boston last week at Game 5 of the first-round series with Atlanta.

Jazz Announce Assistant Coaches, Name Jeff Hornacek Coaching Consultant

The Jazz have made some personnel additions. Utah announced today in a press release that the team will bring back assistant coaches Alex Jensen, Lamar Skeeter, and Bryan Bailey – all of whom operated as assistants under previous Jazz head coach Quin Snyder – to work under new head coach Will Hardy.

They will join a robust assistant staff that includes the previously announced Jason Terry, Evan Bradds, Irv Roland, and Sean Sheldon. Other staffers noted in the statement include player development coaches Chris Jones and Sanjay Lumpkin, who previously had different gigs under the Snyder regime.

Utah is hiring Becca Ward as its new director of team operations. The team’s video coordinator will be Anthony Beaumont, assisted by Andrew Warren and Matthew Temple.

In terms of other new additions, the Jazz also announced that former longtime Utah wing Jeff Hornacek will return to the team as a coaching consultant. Hornacek worked as an assistant coach for Utah from 2011-13 under head coach Tyrone Corbin. Most recently, he served as an assistant coach on Stephen Silas‘s Rockets staff from 2020-22.

Utah is undergoing a seismic roster rebuild, having already offloaded veterans Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale and Patrick Beverley this summer in separate deals. The team appears to be prioritizing a long-term rebuild, accruing oodles of future draft picks and young players in its trades this summer and building a coaching group set to develop its youth for years to come.

Rockets Notes: No. 3 Pick, Lottery, Hornacek, Weaver

Having snagged the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Rockets are in good position to add one of the best prospects in this year’s class without having to worry too much about that player’s fit alongside last year’s No. 2 pick Jalen Green.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, big men Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero are widely considered to be this year’s top three prospects and don’t overlap positionally at all with Green. All three have been mentioned in the conversation for the No. 1 pick and are different from the frontcourt players on Houston’s current roster, Feigen adds.

Still, general manager Rafael Stone isn’t closing the door on the possibility that the Rockets could make a trade involving that No. 3 pick.

“There’s going to be a really good player available at three,” Stone said, per Feigen. “It’s on us to make sure we pick him, assuming we pick it. Nobody ever believes me, but that’s always in the cards: that it might make more sense for us to trade it.”

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • Within that same Houston Chronicle story, Feigen also takes a behind-the-scenes look at the experience Rockets general counsel Clay Allen had in the lottery drawing room on Tuesday. Allen was pleased with the end result, expressing relief that the team didn’t slip to No. 4 or No. 5. “The whole day was nerve-wracking,” he said.
  • Rockets assistant coaches Jeff Hornacek and Will Weaver won’t be returning to the coaching staff for the 2022/23 season, reports Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston (Twitter link). Both Hornacek and Weaver were hired as part of Stephen Silas‘ initial group of assistants in the fall of 2020.
  • According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, “early intel” points to the Rockets hanging onto the No. 17 pick, even though it’s their second first-round pick this year and their sixth in the last two years. However, Iko expects that selection to draw interest from rival teams.
  • Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and Josh Christopher were among the players in attendance last week when the Rockets held an informal workout at their facility, only about a month after their season ended, Iko writes in the same story.

Rockets Add Hornacek To Silas’ Coaching Staff

The Rockets have hired Jeff Hornacek as an assistant on Stephen Silas’ staff, according to a team press release.

Hornacek was the head coach in Phoenix for 2 1/2 seasons from 2013-16 and in New York for two seasons from 2016-18. Previous reports indicated Houston was close to an agreement with Hornacek and now it’s official.

John Lucas, who was reportedly one of the finalists to replace Mike D’Antoni as head coach, will remain in the organization as an assistant. Will Weaver, Rick Higgins, and DeSagana Diop will also join Silas’ staff.

Weaver was the head coach of the Sydney Kings in Australia after being named NBA G League Coach of the Year for the 2018/19 season with the Long Island Nets. Higgins spent the past two seasons with the Magic as associate coach/player development, while Diop spent the past four seasons on the Jazz’s staff.

Rockets Close To Hiring Jeff Hornacek As Assistant

Former NBA head coach Jeff Hornacek is “very close” to joining the Rockets as an assistant coach on Stephen Silas‘ new staff, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link). Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle first reported that the Rockets were in talks with Hornacek.

A former shooting guard who made an All-Star team and appeared in a pair of NBA Finals, Hornacek transitioned into coaching in 2011 when he was hired as an assistant by the Jazz. He subsequently coached the Suns from 2013-16 and the Knicks from 2016-18.

Hornacek led Phoenix to a 48-34 record in his first year as a head coach, but didn’t finish above .500 in a season after that. He has an overall record of 161-216 (.427) as a head coach.

Since Silas is a first-time head coach, there was an expectation that the Rockets would want to make sure he had an experienced staff around him. Feigen previously reported that Houston wanted to get at least two former head coaches on Silas’ staff, and it seems the club has achieved that goal — assuming Hornacek finalizes a deal with the Rockets, he’ll join John Lucas, who has decided to remain with the organization as an assistant.

The Rockets also aggressively pursued veteran coach Nate McMillan, but McMillan is reportedly on the verge of joining the Hawks.

Rockets Notes: Harden, Silas, Diop, Higgins, Weaver, McMillan

New Rockets general manager Rafael Stone says he’s committed to building a championship team around James Harden, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. There has been speculation former Rockets GM and newly-hired Sixers executive Daryl Morey would try to acquire the former MVP.

“We’ve still got James Harden. Our goal is still to win a championship, and if you’ve got him, you’re halfway there,” Stone said. “It’s incumbent on me and (new coach) Stephen (Silas) and the whole team to figure out the rest of the whole, but the key piece is there.”

Silas embraces those expectations and the pressure that comes with it. “I’m a win-now coach,” he said. “To not have to deal with growing and all that type of stuff, to think championship right away, is exciting for me. And I’m prepared for it and ready for it.”

We have more on the Rockets:

  • Silas’ contract is a four-year deal, Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston tweets. Silas was officially hired on October 30 after being one of the presumed finalists along with Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas, who has decided to remain in Houston and join Silas’ staff.
  • As previously reported, the team has talked to former Suns and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek about joining their coaching staff. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has uncovered a few other candidates that the Rockets are interested in hiring. Jazz assistant DeSagana Diop, Magic assistant Rick Higgins and former Sixers and Nets assistant Will Weaver are also possible additions to the staff, though Weaver is also a candidate for the Thunder’s head coaching job.
  • The front office aggressively pursued former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to join the staff but he opted to instead join the Hawks’ staff under Lloyd Pierce, Berman adds in another tweet. Atlanta is close to hiring McMillan, though no official announcement has been made.

Rockets Hire Stephen Silas As Head Coach

OCTOBER 30: The Rockets have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve hired Silas as their new head coach. Team owner Tilman Fertitta referred to the opportunity as “well-earned and long overdue” for Silas.

“The success Coach Silas had with Dallas last season reinforced the notion that he is more than ready to lead his own team,” GM Rafael Stone said in a statement of his own. “The strengths of our core players are a great fit for Coach Silas’ system and ideology and I’m looking forward to working with him to find ways we can continue to improve our roster.”

OCTOBER 28: The Rockets and Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas are finalizing a deal that will make him the team’s new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Silas had been one of three presumed finalists for the position, along with former NBA head coaches Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas.

Van Gundy and Lucas were rumored to be the frontrunners to replace Mike D’Antoni in Houston at various points during the Rockets’ head coaching search process, but the Rockets opted for a first-time head coach rather than a veteran with experience in the role.

Silas, the son of former NBA star and coach Paul Silas, was hired in 1999 as a scout by the franchise known at the time as the Charlotte Hornets and has since served as an assistant on a number of NBA coaching staffs. After spending four years as an assistant with Golden State from 2006-10 and eight years with the Bobcats/Hornets from 2010-18, he moved to Dallas in 2018, where he spent the last two years as a member of Rick Carlisle‘s staff.

Silas has received consideration for multiple head coaching jobs in recent years, having reportedly drawn interest from Indiana and Chicago this year in addition to Houston. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the Rockets were impressed with Silas’ “offensive ingenuity,” as well as his pedigree as an assistant.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), the Rockets moved “increasingly” over the weekend toward Silas. He had a Zoom call with many Houston players last night, which represented an important final step, since those players were all on board with the decision, a source tells Feigen.

As Woj points out, Silas will be tasked with coaching and running an offense for former MVPs Russell Westbrook and James Harden after having worked with a handful of other star guards during his career as an assistant, including Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, and Kemba Walker. He’ll also oversee a period of transition within the franchise — in addition to making a head coaching change, the Rockets have also undergone a major front office overhaul this fall, with longtime GM Daryl Morey leaving the organization.

The Rockets are expected to help Silas build an experienced coaching staff that includes at least two former head coaches, according to Feigen. The team has begun talks with Nate McMillan and Jeff Hornacek, and will likely make Lucas an offer to remain with the franchise, either as an assistant or in a new capacity, Feigen adds.

With Silas poised to become the Rockets’ new coach, only one NBA team – the Thunder – has yet to finalize its head coaching search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.