Mike Brown

Western Notes: Kings, Brooks, Jones, Lillard, Timberwolves

The Kings decided to tweak the roster rather than make major changes this offseason after finally reaching the postseason in the spring. They acquired Chris Duarte in a trade and re-signed Harrison Barnes and Trey Lyles. They also signed EuroLeague star Sasha Vezenkov.

Kings coach Mike Brown is excited to have his core group back and is eager to see how they respond to the newfound respect they’ve gained after snapping the franchise’s long playoff drought.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can handle the pressure,” the Kings coach said. “It’s flipped now. We’re no longer hunting people; people are hunting us. And there are expectations, so how do we handle that? I believe our guys are ready for it, and with the fans that we have here and the juice they brought last year – let’s go. Let’s get it. I’m excited for Sasha, I’m excited for Chris Duarte, I’m excited about our young guys. It’s good to have the new guys, but I’m more excited about having our guys to be able to run it back and give them the opportunity to grow as a nucleus than anything else.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Grizzlies allowed Dillon Brooks in free agency and traded Tyus Jones. So what have they lost? Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal explores that topic. The Grizzlies have become known for their flashy style and trash talking and Brooks was a major reason for that. Jones was a locker room leader and led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in each of his four seasons with the club.
  • Trail Blazers fans want the Damian Lillard saga to be resolved soon. In a poll conducted by Jason Quick of The Athletic, 80.4% want the front office to take the best offer for their longtime All-Star and prioritize the team ahead of Lillard. However, the high-scoring guard was voted as the franchise’s greatest player (51.9%), ahead of Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton.
  • Anthony Edwards (United States), Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic), Rudy Gobert (France), Kyle Anderson (China), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada) and draft-and-stash prospect Matteo Spagnolo (Italy) are participating in the World Cup, while Luka Garza played for Bosnia and Herzegovina in a pre-qualifying Olympic tournament. That should give those Timberwolves players a head start to the NBA season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Alexander-Walker agrees with the notion. “I want to use it to propel me for the season,” he said.

Kings Notes: Barnes, Brown, Reserves, Sabonis

Now a member of a Kings team enjoying being a brash, young squad ready to make a statement in the playoffs, Harrison Barnes can remember when he went through the same experience with the Warriors. Barnes was part of the early days of the Golden State dynasty, spending the first four years of his career with the team before signing with Dallas in 2016 when the Warriors targeted Kevin Durant.

In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Barnes said he doesn’t have any bitterness related to the Warriors or the way his time with the franchise ended.

“I have nothing but fond memories of my time with Golden State,” he said. “Obviously, I think losing the Finals is always going to leave a black eye in terms of how things went, and obviously they’ve gone on to have success since. But I don’t have any ill feelings towards anybody in that organization.”

Barnes covers a wide range of topics in the interview, including his decision to turn down an extension from the Warriors, his long absence from the playoffs after leaving and how he’ll handle his upcoming free agency. Barnes also addresses hearing his name mentioned as a trade candidate as the Kings tried to build a playoff-worthy roster.

“The trade rumors in the past, I think you fully accept those because of (the struggles) of the team,” he said. “You look at it, and you say ‘OK, having three years of being here, three rounds of lottery picks, disappointment, where every trade deadline, you’re revamping the team.’ You know what I mean? It makes sense. Two front offices. (Coach Dave) Joerger leaves. Alvin (Gentry). Mike (Brown). There’s so much turnover that at that point, you’re just like, ‘I can’t expect to not be in those (trade) discussions.’”

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • Brown turned around the Kings and earned Coach of the Year honors by focusing on interpersonal relationships, Amick writes in a separate piece for The Athletic. Right after being hired, Brown started getting to know his players, Amick adds, including a trip to Germany to see Domantas Sabonis play for Lithuania during EuroBasket.
  • General manager Monte McNair deserves credit for building a bench that has helped Sacramento grab a 2-0 lead over the defending champs, states Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee. Malik Monk, Trey Lyles, Davion Mitchell and Alex Len have all played important roles in the early part of the series.
  • Brown expects Sabonis to be ready for Thursday’s Game 3, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. X-rays on Sabonis’ sternum were negative after he was stepped on by Draymond Green.

Mike Brown Named Coach Of The Year

After leading the Kings to the third seed in the West and snapping a 16-year playoff drought in his first season in Sacramento, Mike Brown has been honored as the NBA’s Coach of The Year, the team announced (via Twitter).

Brown, who was also named Coach of the Year in 2009, will be awarded the first-ever Red Auerbach Trophy. He received all 100 first-place votes, marking the first time in league history that the award has been unanimous.

The Thunder‘s Mark Daigneault finished second with 48 second-place votes and 20 third-place votes, while first-year Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla was third with 18 second-place votes and 23 third-place votes.

The Cavaliers J.B. Bickerstaff and the Nuggets Michael Malone rounded out the top five, while nine other head coaches received at least one vote.

When the Kings hired him last year, Brown said he wanted to do more than just get the team into the postseason. His goal was to build a team that could win in the playoffs and possibly challenge for an NBA title.

Brown was able to do that quickly, unlocking the potential of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis on one of the league’s most exciting teams. Sacramento led the league with 120.7 points per game while posting a 48-34 record.

Brown is the first Sacramento coach to win the honor and the third in the history of the franchise, according to Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 (Twitter link). The others were Phil Johnson in 1975 and Cotton Fitzsimmons in 1979.

NBA Announces 2022/23 Award Finalists

The NBA announced its finalists for all the major 2022/23 regular season awards on Friday evening (all Twitter links can be found here).

Here is the full list of finalists for each of the awards, listed in alphabetical order:

Most Valuable Player

Defensive Player of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Most Improved Player

Sixth Man of the Year

Coach of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

TNT will begin announcing the winners next week during its coverage of the 2023 playoffs, according to the NBA. The three finalists for each award are based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.

Antetokounmpo, the league’s back-to-back MVP winner in 2018/19 and ’19/20, has finished fourth and third in MVP voting over the past two seasons, respectively. He averaged a career-high 31.1 PPG along with 11.8 RPG and 5.7 APG on .553/.275/.645 shooting in 63 games (32.1 MPG) this season in leading the Bucks to the NBA’s best record at 58-24.

Embiid, the MVP runner-up in each of the past two years, led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season, posting a career-high 33.1 PPG along with 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.7 BPG on .548/.330/.857 shooting in 66 games (34.6 MPG). The Sixers finished third in the East with a 54-28 record, though it’s worth noting that record is also the third-best mark in the league.

Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, averaged 24.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG and 1.3 SPG on .632/.383/.822 shooting in 69 games (33.7. MPG). In addition to breaking Wilt Chamberlain‘s record for most assists per game by a center (8.6), Jokic led the Nuggets to the top seed in the West with a 53-29 record.

It’s long been assumed that Banchero, Brown and Fox were the runaway favorites for their respective awards. Given Embiid’s excellent play to end the season and Denver’s stumble to the finish line, it seems likely that Embiid will edge out Jokic and Antetokounmpo to win his first MVP — all three finalists are more than deserving, just as they were last year.

However, the other three awards are more up in the air. Jackson and Lopez have been considered the betting favorites for DPOY for much of the second half of the season. Mobley’s inclusion is somewhat surprising, but maybe it shouldn’t be — the Cavs finished with the league’s top defense and he is arguably the best defender on the team.

Mike Brown Wins Coaches Association Award

Kings coach Mike Brown has been voted the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

It’s no surprise, considering Sacramento just ended the longest playoff drought among the four major sports leagues. The Kings went 48-34 in Brown’s first season as their head coach and will enter the postseason as the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed.

The Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer, Thunder‘s Mark Daigneault, Celtics Joe Mazzulla and Knicks Tom Thibodeau also received votes, per Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

The Suns’ Monty Williams had received the award in each of the last two seasons.

Brown was hired by the Kings after six-year stint as an assistant coach with the Warriors.

Pacific Notes: Jerome, Lakers, Westbrook, M. Brown

Although Ty Jerome was a candidate to be promoted from his two-way contract to the Warriors‘ standard roster, that honor ultimately went to fellow two-way player Anthony Lamb, who had his deal converted last month. As a result, Jerome has been inactive since March 11 as the team looked to preserve his final three games of eligibility, writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area.

With just three games left in the Warriors’ regular season, Jerome is in position to be reactivated on Tuesday. However, unless the team waives someone else to make room for him on the 15-man roster, he won’t be eligible to play in the postseason. Speaking to Johnson, the 25-year-old guard said he understands the situation and has “zero hard feelings” toward Lamb or the organization about it.

“They were very open about it with both me and Anthony,” Jerome told NBC Sports Bay Area. “In the heat of it, we were both playing leading up to that decision. Steph (Curry) was out and a few other guys were out, and it really wasn’t on the forefront of my mind at the time. I was really locked in. I’m just trying to win games.

“We had a good stretch of like five in a row. We won some good games, and that was kind of more on the forefront of my mind, and then with Andre (Iguodala) being out for the year and (Andrew Wiggins) not being here, it just came down to positional depth.”

Assuming Jerome’s contract remains unchanged during the final few days of the regular season, he’ll be on track to become a restricted free agent this summer.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Within a larger story about the Timberwolves‘ duo of Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports looks back at how the trade deadline blockbuster involving the Wolves, Lakers, and Jazz came together, noting that Utah significantly dropped its asking price for taking back Russell Westbrook as the deadline neared. While those negotiations initially involved just the Jazz and Lakers, they expanded to include Minnesota in part because “some factions” of the Lakers’ front office preferred to acquire a point guard younger than Conley and zeroed in on D’Angelo Russell, Fischer writes.
  • Westbrook, who joined the Clippers after being bought out by Utah, is fitting in much better with his new L.A. team than he did with his old one, as Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times outlines. Several people within the organization have expressed both privately and publicly that the union has gone better than expected, Greif writes, adding that the former MVP has been a “popular addition in the locker room.”
  • Kings head coach Mike Brown earned Mark Daigneault‘s vote for the Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year award, the Thunder coach said on Monday (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman).There was an external stigma that existed around that team,” Daigneault said of Sacramento. “I really admire the energy he brought to that job … He’s really brought a swagger and confidence.”

Pacific Notes: Payton, Westbrook, Lue, M. Brown

Gary Payton II‘s long wait to get back on the court with the Warriors will end on Sunday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Payton has been listed as probable to play against the Timberwolves, and sources tell Haynes that he’ll be ready to go.

Payton was able to scrimmage on Friday and participated fully in Saturday’s light practice, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. An official decision may not be made until after warm-ups, but it appears the intention is for Payton to play.

“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said. “I missed a lot of games this year, so I’m just ready to get back out on the court with the guys and wrap this up for the homestretch.”

After being an important part of Golden State’s title team last season, Payton signed with the Trail Blazers over the summer. The Warriors reached an agreement to bring him back at the trade deadline, but the deal was delayed for three days because Payton had an adductor injury that Golden State claimed the Blazers didn’t disclose. Payton, who hasn’t played since February 8, says he feels good now and he’s ready to contribute.

“Every day getting my body right, a little maintenance, fine-tuning, we had a little extra time to do all of that and get (my body) where it needs to be,” he said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Russell Westbrook has taken on a mentorship role since signing with the Clippers, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Westbrook’s main students are young guards Terance Mann and Bones Hyland, who are eager to learn from a future Hall of Famer. “I got so much love and just, just everything for Russ, man. I love watching him play, his energy,” Hyland said. “… He gives it his all. So just being alongside Russ, I learned so much and he’s always in my ear telling me the good things, what he sees out there for me. I’m glad to be a teammate alongside Russ.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue could “remove himself” from the team if things don’t go well in the playoffs, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested in the first episode of his “No Cap Room” podcast. However, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Lue, who has multiple years left on his contract, hasn’t engaged in any discussions with management about an early exit.
  • Mike Brown, who’s among the favorites for Coach of the Year honors, said the award would be important because of the recognition it would bring to the Kings and the city of Sacramento (video link).

Pacific Notes: Curry, Hartenstein, Brown, Russell

Warriors star Stephen Curry turned 35 years old on Tuesday, but he’s not even close to thinking about retirement, as he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. He’s hoping to play into his 40s, if all goes well.

“How I feel right now is not how I thought I’d feel at 35. That number sounds crazy, but in my head, I feel like I got a lot left,” he said. “The work I put into this I still enjoy. Who knows how [the future] looks?

“I talked to Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and other guys who have been on the other side of the halfway point. I know quarterbacking is different, but you can check yourself [mentally] into not fast-forwarding too far. They really did a good job of disciplining themselves for what is happening in real time. They’re 40 feeling like they can still play. I’m trying to stay in that mode. Thirty-five is a big milestone, but the next one is 40. The way I feel right now, who knows?””

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein suggested that if the Clippers had offered him the taxpayer mid-level exception last summer, he would have taken it, Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints.com reports. Hartenstein wound up signing a two-year contract worth up to $18.1MM with New York. “I mean, they gave the only thing they really could’ve offered me to John Wall. I was — I can’t take that big of a pay cut,” he said. “I think I was actually gonna come back, but I can’t take that big of a pay cut. So they picked John Wall over me and I got to live with that.”
  • Head coach Mike Brown has raised the bar for the Kings and they’ve responded, as Sam Amick of The Athletic details. Brown ripped his team for giving up 23 offensive rebounds to the Knicks on Thursday, even though Sacramento won. Holding his players accountable has paid off. “That’s why we’re in the position we’re in right now, because he wants us to be perfect,” guard Malik Monk said. “He knows we can’t be perfect, but he wants us to be perfect. So I think that’s why we’re succeeding right now. He’s pushing us, coming in and telling us that was B.S. You would’ve thought we lost if you heard what was going on, but he just wants the best for us, man. Like I said, he wants us to be perfect in a world that’s not perfect.”
  • D’Angelo Russell is hopeful of re-signing with the Lakers this offseason when he hits free agency, Jacob Rude of SilverScreenAndRoll.com relays. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said at halftime of the Knicks-Lakers game on Sunday night that Russell wants to extend his second stint with the franchise. “D’Angelo Russell very much wanted a second chance in LA with the Lakers and you’ve seen the impact he made coming back against Toronto the other night, playing great in a win, and again (Sunday). He wants to be the point guard of the future for this organization.”

Kings Notes: Fox, Sabonis, Brown, Playoffs

The Kings won for the seventh time in their last eight games on Thursday vs. New York, picking up a five-point home victory in a nationally televised game and maintaining control of the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. However, head coach Mike Brown wasn’t thrilled that his team let the Knicks grab 23 offensive rebounds and nearly blew a 21-point third quarter lead, as Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee relays.

“You can tell I’m a little frustrated,” Brown said during his post-game press conference. “It’s a great win. You take wins at this time of the year. But that’s not how we should be playing basketball, what you guys saw tonight. I’m not happy with our performance at all except for the fact that we got the win. Somehow, some way, we have to be better throughout the course of the ball game.

“I’m going to put pressure on Domas (Domantas Sabonis) and Foxy (De’Aaron Fox). They have to hold themselves to an elite level on every possession. But just as importantly, they’ve got to open their mouths and hold their teammates to a high standard. Because that ain’t going to fly.”

Brown has been highly supportive of his star players all season, campaigning for them to receive All-Star and All-NBA consideration. His critical tone after a victory perhaps indicates that the expectations are starting to rise in Sacramento, with Brown taking steps to ensure that his team won’t be happy to simply break its 16-year playoff drought and lose to a lower seed in the first round.

Later in his presser, Brown said he believes Fox can be even better than he has been so far this season, suggesting that his point guard has a “switch” that he sometimes doesn’t flip on until the fourth quarter.

“Somehow, some way, I got to get him to turn it on for a little closer to the 33 or 34 minutes he’s playing, instead of just waiting for the fourth quarter,” Brown said. “Because he’s more than capable. I’ve been around a lot of great slash elite players — I’m a little hesitant to say this, because I haven’t been with him long enough and I haven’t seen him do it in the playoffs yet — but he may capable of being on that level. But the great ones, the elite ones, they do it all the time.”

Here’s more on the Beam Team:

  • The Kings haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet, but Fox and others have begun talking about the postseason with some certainty, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic details.
  • Fox, who admitted he wasn’t sure if he’d still be in Sacramento through the 2021 and 2022 trade deadlines, told Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that he had confidence in this year’s roster even after the Kings got off to an 0-4 start in the fall. “I knew this was a different team,” Fox said. “There was a foundation that was built with this group that no one else could see. I know what losing feels like, and even though we got off to a rough start, I felt like we all were on the same page, and that’s the difference.”
  • In the same Bleacher Report story, Haynes writes that one of the changes Mike Brown implemented in his first year in Sacramento was to encourage each player and coach – along with team owner Vivek Ranadive – to sign contracts prior to the season fully committing to their assigned roles. “We had a team dinner at the start of training camp and everyone’s specific role was explained,” Brown said. “Some guys were not happy with their roles, but if you agreed to honor your role, you signed the contract. No one was forced to do so, but if you signed it, your teammates saw that you made a commitment to fulfill your obligation. So if s–t hits the fan, there is no way to run. You will be held accountable if you stray away from your commitment to the team. When you truly value s–t, you protect it and embrace it. That’s what I wanted out of our team. All the players signed it.”
  • Count LeBron James among those who believe Brown should earn Coach of the Year honors this season. Responding to a tweet that called Brown the frontrunner, James said of his former Cavaliers coach, HANDS DOWN!!!!!! Mike Brown got them boys hoopin hoopin!!

Mike Brown, Mike Budenholzer Named Coaches Of The Month

Kings head coach Mike Brown and Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer have been named the league’s coaches of the month for February, the NBA has announced (Twitter link).

Led by All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, Budenholzer’s Bucks are currently at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 45-17 record. Milwaukee is in the midst of a 16-game winning streak and enjoyed a spotless February, going 10-0.

Brown led Sacramento to an 8-4 record across the month. The team is currently on a four-game win streak, while top players De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis both played in this month’s All-Star Game.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and Suns head coach Monty Williams were runners-up to Brown in the Western Conference, while Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau were also nominated in the East, the league added (via Twitter).

Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL tweets that Brown is the first Sacramento coach since Rick Adelman during the 2003/04 season to earn a Coach of the Month honor. Given that his 36-25 Kings club appeared poised to make its first return to the postseason in nearly that long, he certainly seems worthy of the award.