Jeff Van Gundy

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Porzingis, Van Gundy

Being named MVP is one of Jayson Tatum‘s career goals, but leading the Celtics to an NBA title ranks higher on his list, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Tatum said at All-Star Weekend that he believes voters look at him differently based on a subpar performance in the 2022 Finals, Washburn adds. Although Tatum averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists in that series, he shot just 31% on two-pointers and had difficulty scoring inside against Andrew Wiggins.

“Of course you want to win those things,” Tatum told reporters last weekend in Indianapolis. “But you can’t take precedence over playing the right way and doing the things that you have to do in order for your team to essentially be the best team in the league and have a chance to win a championship. Would I love to win? Yes. But apparently us losing the Finals two years ago affects what people think of me now, so I guess I’ve got some ground to make up.”

Tatum’s MVP case is boosted by the dominance of the Celtics, who won their eighth straight game Saturday in New York. Boston holds the league’s best record by a wide margin, but its roster is so talented that Tatum doesn’t have to carry the team, which often limits the stats that voters tend to look at when casting their ballots. Coach Joe Mazzulla made that point after Tatum’s 19-point performance against the Knicks.

“I thought today was a beautiful display of basketball from Jayson that will go underlooked and will not go into the most valuable category,” Mazzulla said. “But his ability to control the game with his pick-and-roll pace, his pick-and-roll passing; his defense, he put himself on ((Jalen) Brunson. And the poise of welcoming the two-on-ones (double teams) and creating for others was great.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Kristaps Porzingis, one of Boston’s major acquisitions last summer, gives credit to the front office for its bold moves in assembling the current roster, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. “When the opportunity presented, for me at least, I said this is gonna work, 100%,” Porzingis said. “Or we’re gonna figure it out sooner than later. And it just worked right away because of the fit, because of where I am in my career, and adding Jrue (Holiday). … So just overall great players but also great people and that makes the team connect very easily.”
  • With an eight-game lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Mazzulla will have the opportunity to rest players for the remainder of the season to keep them fresh for the playoffs, notes Brian Robb of MassLive. He adds that it’s a luxury for a team that may have worn itself out by chasing seedings in past years.
  • Senior consultant of basketball operations Jeff Van Gundy has stayed out of the spotlight, but he has been a welcome addition to the Celtics’ management team, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “One of the best things he does is he’s just a great listener,” Mazzulla said. “And so you don’t realize how long he’s been in the NBA. You don’t realize the playoff series that he’s been in, the experiences that he’s had, because he waits for the opportunity to come up and almost waits for you to ask him. So he’s very patient. He’s a great listener. And then just a guy that you can bounce ideas off of.”

Latest On Bucks’ Coaching Situation

The Bucks have reached out to Doc Rivers to discuss having him take over their head coaching job, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms.

As reported earlier in the day, Rivers is the top choice to replace first-year coach Adrian Griffin, who was abruptly fired on Tuesday.

CNN Sports, as relayed by the NBA on TNT, reported on Tuesday night that Rivers had accepted the position (video link). However, that report has yet to be corroborated by other media outlets.

Rivers already has a connection to the Bucks, having informally served as a consultant for Griffin this season at the behest of the club.

Here’s more on the Bucks’ coaching situation:

  • Griffin offered a diplomatic answer to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report regarding his dismissal: “I appreciate the opportunity the Bucks gave me. You can’t control everything,” Griffin said in a phone interview. “I feel good about the job we did. I appreciate my coaching staff for all their hard work. I always wanted to be a head coach in this league. I couldn’t have asked for a better roster. I got to coach Giannis (Antetokounpo), Dame (Lillard), Khris (Middleton), Brook (Lopez). Dream come true. Hopefully, I get another shot at it, but overall, I’m just thankful.”
  • Bucks general manager Jon Horst and assistant GM Milt Newton began closely observing practices and shootarounds in the last 10 days or so, Haynes reports in the same story.  That began raising the eyebrows of the coaching staff and players. If they don’t land Rivers, the Bucks also have Jeff Van Gundy and Nate McMillan on their short list of candidates, Haynes adds.
  • Griffin met with his top four players after the team’s loss to Indiana during the in-season tournament last month and they all spoke about what was working, what wasn’t working and how they could best be utilized. Griffin told the players that sacrifices were required, but bickering in the locker room continued shortly thereafter.
  • Griffin was hired at the endorsement of Antetokounmpo, but that endorsement had more to do with whom the two-time MVP didn’t want as head coach, writes Marc Stein at SubstackNick Nurse was high on the Bucks’ list of candidates before he was hired by the Sixers, according to Stein, who says Antetokounmpo wanted the franchise to go in a different direction and chose to back Griffin. Moving on from Griffin now was a far easier move than finding a difference-making trade, given Milwaukee’s limited assets, Stein adds.
  • When Lillard’s former head coach, Terry Stotts, chose to resign from the Bucks’ staff just prior to the season opener, the reason was that Griffin felt that he was being undermined by Stotts, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Stotts was brought in to mentor Griffin but they clashed on scheme and philosophy.

Eastern Notes: Gobert, Fournier, Van Gundy, Wizards, Black, Howard, Hayward

Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert is disappointed that fellow Frenchman Evan Fournier has an uncertain future with the Knicks and an undefined role, he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Post. Fournier anticipated during the offseason that he would be traded.

Gobert calls Fournier “the best shooter on the Knicks.”

“I think he can contribute and help a lot of teams,” Gobert added. “I think everybody knows it. But it’s kind of weird when you end up on the bench and you don’t really know why. Sometimes you can be stuck in a situation — I know he’s going to have an opportunity again, and everybody will understand that he can help and win. And do it at a high level. And do it every night.”

We have more Eastern Conference news:

  • Jeff Van Gundy, who was hired by the Celtics as a senior consultant, has a longtime admirer in president of basketball operations Brad Stevens. “Jeff has been an unofficial consultant for so many of us that grew up in coaching for a long time,” Stevens told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “He’s so humble and approachable, and has always gone out of his way to spend time helping others.”
  • The Wizards’ Deni Avdija (back), Patrick Baldwin Jr. (knee) and Taj Gibson (groin) were all full practice participants on Sunday, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Anthony Gill (hamstring) and Landry Shamet (toe) were the only players who didn’t fully participate.
  • Magic coach Jamahl Mosley felt lottery picks Anthony Black and Jett Howard showed improvement in the team’s second preseason contest against Clevleand, according to Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel. “That second game, they were settled down,” Mosley said. “Our coaches did a tremendous job of watching film with them to help them see what they’re able to do and they settled in that second game.”
  • Hornets forward Gordon Hayward (right foot discomfort) missed the team’s preseason contest against Oklahoma City on Sunday, the team’s PR department tweets.

Atlantic Notes: Van Gundy, Knicks, Robinson, Harden, Nets

Current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau worked in New York as an assistant on Jeff Van Gundy‘s staff from 1996-2001. Over two decades later, Van Gundy has been hired as a senior consultant by the division-rival Celtics.

Asked on Saturday about Van Gundy joining the Celtics, Thibodeau joked that it was “disgusting,” writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Thibodeau was also asked if the Knicks had offered Van Gundy a similar role and hinted that Boston was a better fit for his former boss and longtime friend.

“Obviously, he’s had a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things. We’re very close friends, obviously,” Thibodeau said. “So, I’m happy for him because there are certain things that he’s looking for and I think he was able to find them there. He’s not only a great coach. He’s a great person. So, whatever is next for him, I know he’ll be great at it. But I just want him to be happy and I think he will be.”

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Atlantic…

  • As Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required) relays, center Mitchell Robinson was pleased to hear that he one of six Knicks to make ESPN’s annual list of the NBA’s top 100 players — even if he came in at the very bottom of that list, at No. 100. Thibodeau suggested on Saturday that people sometimes “overlook” what Robinson does on the court. “I think he brings great value to the team because of offensive rebounding, the pressure on the rim, the screening,” Thibodeau said. “Those things are huge for our offense. When you understand the value of shots, the kick-out threes, getting to the free-throw line, getting to the bonus early each quarter, those are things that help you win.”
  • In his latest look at James Harden‘s standoff with the Sixers, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required) says the star guard is “ramping up” to play in the team’s preseason finale, and adds that the Clippers have shown no inclination to improve their trade offer of a first-round pick, a pick swap, and expiring contracts. The 76ers want guard Terance Mann in a Harden package, but a source tells Pompey that Daryl Morey knows Mann is “untouchable.”
  • With Dennis Smith Jr. sidelined for at least the next week due to a sprained ankle, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn will have more opportunities to evaluate his other point guards – Ben Simmons and Spencer Dinwiddie – playing “together and separately,” he noted on Saturday. “I think Spencer has the ability to space the floor for us and shoot threes,” Vaughn said, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “And so that is a weapon for us that we want to use. Those two on the floor, though, either one can get an outlet and push the ball up the floor. [Dinwiddie] has the ability to be a lead guard, also. So I’ll continue to play around with that.”

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, White, Holiday, Van Gundy, Queta

In an interview with Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (video link), new Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis said he’s excited to be with a team that has a chance to win a title. Porzingis has only been to the playoffs twice in his eight NBA seasons, and his team lost in the first round both times. He had to exercise his option for the upcoming season so the trade that sent him from Washington to Boston could be completed, and he’s convinced that he made the right choice.

“It feels like, at this point in my career, this is what I really wanted, to be able to try to win it all, and especially wearing these colors and this organization, which is, as I keep saying, if not the most iconic than top two most iconic franchises there are,” Porzingis said. “And I’m playing for this team. So it’s absolutely incredible. An incredible opportunity for me, and I’m just grateful for it all.”

Porzingis appeared headed for stardom when he entered the NBA, but injuries have slowed him down throughout his career. He played in 65 games for the Wizards last season, his highest total since 2016/17, but a new concern cropped up this summer when Porzingis had to miss the World Cup tournament because of plantar fasciitis. He said his foot feels fine now, and he credits team doctors with helping him to manage the pain.

“The medical staff did an incredible job of loading slowly,” Porzingis said. “I wanted to go right away as soon as I got here to play pick-up the first day. But they held me back a little bit. I listened to them and it’s been going perfect, ready for training camp and ready to go.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Derrick White and Jrue Holiday could form the league’s best defensive backcourt, observes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. He points out that the Celtics’ defense was 4.5 points per 100 possessions better with White on the court last season, while Holiday made Milwaukee’s defense 4.1 points per 100 possessions better whenever he played. “It’s fun,” Holiday said of playing alongside White. “I think the chemistry is there. Even just the first few days of training camp talking to him about what he likes to do defensively, or even just asking him about certain things. But getting out there and actually being able to play with him a bit more, getting that court time has been good for us.”
  • Coach Joe Mazzulla is thrilled to have Jeff Van Gundy serving as a consultant to the team, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Mazzulla said Van Gundy has already proven to be valuable in his short time with the organization and he plans to seek his advice on coaching questions throughout the season.
  • The Celtics will likely keep Neemias Queta on a two-way contract for a while even if he plays well to start the season, Brian Robb of MassLive states in a mailbag column. Queta can appear in up to 50 games on the two-way deal, and the team can convert it to a standard contract later on.

Celtics Hire Jeff Van Gundy As Senior Consultant

The Celtics have added Jeff Van Gundy to their coaching staff, naming him a senior consultant, writes Brian Robb of Robb reached out to the team to confirm the hiring after fans noticed that Van Gundy was listed as part of the staff on the Celtics’ official website.

Van Gundy, 61, was a longtime NBA head coach in New York and Houston. He led the Knicks to a 420-248 (.590) regular season record from 1995-2001, winning eight playoff series and making one appearance in the NBA Finals during that time.

He subsequently coached the Rockets from 2003-07, guiding the team to a 182-146 (.555) regular season mark, but failing to get beyond the first round of the postseason.

After being dismissed by the Rockets, Van Gundy transitioned into broadcasting, eventually becoming part of ESPN/ABC’s top three-man team alongside Mike Breen and Mark Jackson. However, Van Gundy and Jackson were let go by ESPN earlier this year as part of the company’s layoffs.

Van Gundy hasn’t been entirely removed from coaching since his time in Houston — he served as Team USA head coach’s at multiple international competitions, including 2017’s FIBA AmeriCup and the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup.

According to Robb, Van Gundy will be working in the Celtics’ basketball operations department and will spend time with both the NBA team and the Maine Celtics, Boston’s G League affiliate.

The Celtics have made a series of changes to Joe Mazzulla‘s coaching staff this offseason ahead of his second year at the helm. Charles Lee and Sam Cassell were among the veteran assistants brought in by the franchise.

Knicks Notes: Fournier, Grimes, DiVincenzo, Holiday, Robinson

After Evan Fournier expressed his dissatisfaction over the summer about being pulled from the Knicks‘ rotation last season and not being given a chance to play for months, head coach Tom Thibodeau responded to Fournier’s complaints during a media session on Monday, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Post writes.

Thibodeau wasn’t overly sympathetic to Fournier’s gripes, pointing out that the numbers the Knicks posted without the veteran wing in the rotation speak for themselves.

“I didn’t come into (last) season thinking we were going to do the things that we did. We did it because we didn’t have success one way. So, we adjusted,” Thibodeau said. “And then the next group that went in, it’s hard to argue with 37-22 with a plus-five net rating. So, it is what it is. Your job is to stay ready. So whatever you’re doing, go out there and do it. Be part of the team.”

As Bondy writes, the Knicks went 37-45 in 2021/22 with Fournier as a full-time starter and were off to a 6-7 start last season when he was removed from the rotation. While the team’s turnaround certainly can’t be attributed solely to sitting Fournier, New York finished with a 47-35 record.

Fournier’s comments in July indicated that he didn’t expect to still be a Knick by this point, and a source tells Bondy that his representatives tried to work out a trade this summer. However, the club didn’t find a deal it liked. Fournier’s $18.9MM pseudo-expiring contract doesn’t have positive value on its own, but could be a useful salary-matching piece in the right trade.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks committed approximately $47MM in guaranteed money to Donte DiVincenzo this offseason, but the plan for now is to have Quentin Grimes remain in the starting lineup at shooting guard, Thibodeau said on Monday, per Bondy. Thibodeau cited the success the club had after Grimes became a starter last season as the reason why he has earned the first shot at the job again this season. “Now of course you haven’t played any games and nothing has unfolded yet,” Thibodeau said. “So you base your decisions on the information you have. And that’s the information that we have and we’re going to go from there.” Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson project to be the other four starters.
  • Discussing his reasons for signing with the Knicks this offseason, DiVincenzo mentioned reuniting with his former Villanova teammates and getting to be close to family, tweets Ian Begley of DiVincenzo also believes the Knicks are in a great position to continue their winning ways: “Ultimately, I like to win basketball games. Looking at…where I was potentially going to land, I felt most comfortable coming here.”
  • The Knicks had some interest in Jrue Holiday when Portland made him available, but the fact that they weren’t prepared to outbid Boston is indicative of the patient, cautious approach that Leon Rose has taken since assuming control of the club’s front office, Begley writes for Begley still anticipates that the front office will take advantage of their extra draft assets by trading for an impact player at some point, but New York is clearly waiting for the right opportunity to push its chips into the middle of the table.
  • As an aside within a larger story about Deandre Ayton and the Trail Blazers, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports cites sources who say that the asking price for Mitchell Robinson, if the Knicks were to make him available, would be multiple first-round picks. Goodwill was making a point about the value of centers around the league, not suggesting that Robinson is on the trade block.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required) outlines five questions facing the Knicks entering training camp, including whether or not to extend Immanuel Quickley and which players are at risk of having their minutes cut back in a crowded rotation.
  • Having been let go by ESPN this summer, Mark Jackson may fill in for Clyde Frazier on some MSG Network broadcasts of Knicks games this season, sources tell Andrew Marchand of The New York Post. According to Marchand, MSG Network had interest in bringing in Jackson’s former broadcast partner Jeff Van Gundy for some games as well, but that’s unlikely to happen in 2023/24.

Stein’s Latest: USA Basketball, Wood, B. Griffin

Multiple reporters have confirmed the news — originally reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — that Pistons guard Cade Cunningham was offered a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster. Cunningham said last week that he declined the invitation to manage his workload for the upcoming 2023/24 season after being to 12 games in ’22/23 following shin surgery.

According to Marc Stein at Substack, USA Basketball had a longstanding interest in Cunningham joining the senior men’s team, but the organization also recognized that it was an “extreme long shot” to land him.

As Stein explains, Cunningham would have needed to commit to the full six-week time frame, which includes several exhibition games and lengthy international travel. Given how long he was sidelined, it makes sense that the 2021 No. 1 overall pick decided to be cautious; Detroit wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea either, according to Stein.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Why was USA Basketball so interested in Cunningham? As Stein observes, he fits the mold of a physical guard that was a priority for the roster, which includes Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Austin Reaves and Josh Hart (though Hart is more of a wing than a traditional ball-handling guard).
  • The lack of physicality may explain why Hawks guard Trae Young isn’t on the World Cup roster, despite USAB managing director Grant Hill being a part owner of Atlanta, Stein writes. Young was disappointed to not make the team and recently said he’d welcome the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Stein adds.
  • Former ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy will serve as Team USA’s scouting director for the World Cup, Stein reports. Van Gundy has been associated with USAB for several years, including serving as head coach from 2017-19 when the team was comprised of non-NBA players during qualifying rounds, Stein notes.
  • The Lakers remain interested in free agent big man Christian Wood, sources tell Stein. However, they used most of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception on Gabe Vincent and their bi-annual exception on Taurean Prince, so they can basically only offer Wood the veteran’s minimum. While the Mavericks are open to a Wood sign-and-trade, neither the Lakers nor the Heat are believed to be viable partners in that scenario, according to Stein.
  • The Celtics are interested in re-signing free agent big man Blake Griffin, league sources tell Stein, but it’s unclear if that interest is mutual. Griffin appeared in 41 regular season games with Boston in ’22/23, averaging career lows of 4.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 13.9 MPG. He also only played one game for six total minutes in the playoffs, despite the Celtics having 20 postseason contests.

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Poole, Rebuilding, Van Gundy

After trading Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, the Wizards have decided to build their future around Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Both players were part of championship teams early in their careers, and Hughes points out that they were able to learn the game from NBA legends.

It appeared Washington’s new management team might opt for a full rebuild, but the Wizards made a strong push to keep Kuzma, who signed a four-year deal worth at least $90MM. The 27-year-old forward said he received indications that the franchise wanted to re-sign him during his exit interview with chairman Ted Leonsis.

“Ted (made) an emphasis that he wanted me to be here, I knew that,” Kuzma said. “I think over my past two years here I’ve been very transparent as a person. The whole entire organization from Ted, the past regime and then the new regime, they’re very transparent people, too. I never really had much to worry about on that front. I still wanted to go through the process. I think and believe I made the right decision.”

Poole, who’s about to start the first year of the extension he signed with Golden State, feels fortunate to have entered the league on a team that had Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“Those are the two greatest shooters of all time in my opinion, personally,” he said. “There’s just things that you learn in practice, on the road that you wouldn’t be able to learn not being in the mix. I’m thankful for that.” 

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • During a press conference Saturday, Poole deflected questions about the end of his relationship with the Warriors and about being punched by Draymond Green, relays Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re in Washington now,” Jordan Poole told reporters. “Playing with (Kuzma) now, great duo. Being able to really flourish, expand your game. Like I said, it’s a new team with an entirely new group of guys. It’s a challenge that we’re up for. We have a new front office and a lot of people are invested. Everybody is locked in and wants to be here to start something we can have that should be special.”
  • Wizards officials are focused on creating a positive culture around the team, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Sources tell Robbins that the front office won’t consider a full rebuilding project for at least two years. They re-signed Kuzma and brought in Poole and Tyus Jones to help develop first-round pick Bilal Coulibaly and give the team a strong foundation to build around. Robbins adds that the best draft class on the horizon appears to be in 2026, and the Wizards might consider bottoming out to take advantage of that, depending how the current plan works.
  • If Jeff Van Gundy decides to return to coaching, there’s “some mutual interest” with the Wizards, who have openings on Wes Unseld Jr.‘s staff, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Stein’s Latest: RFAs, Washington, Mavs, Bol, JVG, Bojan

There has been more buzz in recent days about restricted free agents Grant Williams and Matisse Thybulle – who reportedly intends to sign an offer sheet with Dallas – than Hornets RFA P.J. Washington, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article. As Stein explains, there are a couple reasons for that.

For one, the Hornets are in a better position to a match a rival offer sheet than Boston or Portland. The Celtics project to be well over the luxury tax line, while the Trail Blazers still aren’t certain what their books will look like after they finalize a Damian Lillard trade.

Additionally, while the Celtics and Trail Blazers would both have to weigh whether or not to match offer sheets signed using the mid-level exception, such a deal would presumably be an automatic match for the Hornets with Washington. According to Stein, Washington is believed to be seeking a deal in the range of $18MM per year.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Following up on a report that the Magic and Mavericks discussed a trade involving Bol Bol around the time of the draft, Stein explains that Dallas pitched the idea of taking on Bol as a salary dump along with Orlando’s No. 36 overall pick. The Magic turned down that proposal and ended up moving No. 36 for a 2030 second-round pick and cash.
  • Jeff Van Gundy, who was recently let go by ESPN, told the Mavericks he wasn’t interested in a job as an assistant on Jason Kidd‘s coaching staff, according to Stein, who says that it’s not yet known whether Van Gundy will attempt to return to coaching in some form or seek another broadcasting opportunity.
  • While teams around the league remain interested in acquiring forward Bojan Bogdanovic, the Pistons have held firm on their stance that they plan to keep the sharpshooting veteran, says Stein. There seems to be little concern about the Achilles issue that sidelined Bogdanovic for Detroit’s final 18 games, Stein adds, noting that the general sense is that the Pistons were just being “extra cautious,” with little to play for.