Nick Van Exel

Hawks Hire Nick Van Exel As Assistant Coach

AUGUST 25: The Hawks have officially hired Van Exel, the team announced today in a press release.

“Since his playing career ended, Nick has been very successful in helping develop young guards for the teams he’s worked with, including several that have turned into All-Stars,” head coach Nate McMillan said in a statement. “We feel he’ll be a great addition helping our young core guards continue to progress.”

AUGUST 22: The Hawks are hiring former NBA guard Nick Van Exel as an assistant coach, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. As Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter), Van Exel will replace Marlon Garnett, who recently left to become an assistant with the Hornets.

Van Exel served as a player development instructor with the Hawks from 2010-12 and most recently worked for the Mavericks as a scout. He confirmed the news of him joining Atlanta with Mike Fisher of (Twitter link).

Van Exel played 13 NBA seasons (including an All-Star campaign in 1997/98), making stops with the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavericks, Warriors, Blazers and Spurs. In addition to his past NBA jobs with Atlanta and Dallas, he also served as an assistant with the Bucks in 2013/14 and assistant with the Grizzlies from 2016-19.

Atlanta finished with the fifth-best record in the East at 41-31 last season, reaching the Conference Finals for the first time since 2014/15. The team is set to enter next season with its core rotation from last year under contract.

Southwest Notes: Ball, Powell, Van Exel, Guduric

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball is happy to get a fresh start in New Orleans, leaving his up-and-down history with Los Angeles in the rear view mirror, he explained in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Ball, 21, was traded to New Orleans along with Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks in exchange for All-Star forward Anthony Davis this past June.

“It was only a matter of time before a trade happened,” Ball said. “I pretty much knew a trade would happen. Any time you have a player like Anthony Davis available, I knew it was going to be my time. I was looking forward to it and I was excited for a new start. Getting out of L.A. for the first time in my life. I’m happy about it.

“It was just time for a change. I got hurt both years and didn’t do what I wanted to do. I was blessed to stay home and play in front of everybody, but it wasn’t working over there.”

New Orleans sports an impressive young nucleus of Ball, Ingram, Hart, Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and others entering the 2019/20 season. The team also managed to add veteran players such as J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors during the offseason.

“Our core could be even better here,” Ball said. “B.I., J. Hart were already part of the young core with me in L.A., and now we have Zion, Nickeil (Alexander-Walker), Jaxson (Hayes), and other guys that want to work and get better. The sky’s the limit.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Dwight Powell‘s absence from the Mavericks is preventing the team from getting a look at him alongside Kristaps Porzingis, writes Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. Powell, who suffered a left hamstring strain on the fifth day of training camp, is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. “There are no excuses,” head coach Rick Carlisle said after the team’s loss against Milwaukee on Friday. The Bucks finished the game shooting 50% from the field. “We would be doing better, certainly, if Powell was out there, but that isn’t how this game works. You have to concentrate on the guys that you have available.”
  • The Mavericks have brought back Nick Van Exel to the organization as a pro personnel scout, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Van Exel holds coaching experience with the Texas Legends, G League affiliate of the Mavericks, from 2014-16, also suiting up for Dallas as a player during the 2002/03 season.
  • David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal examines how a difficult childhood helped shape Grizzlies wing Marko Guduric, who signed a multiyear contract with the team back in July. “Innocent people died because of politics and whatever,” Guduric, who lived in Yugoslavia, explained. “That was my childhood. It was a difficult time, but I survived it.”

Southwest Notes: Ferry, D’Antoni, Van Exel, Mavs

Danny Ferry is meeting with the Pelicans today about the team’s permanent general manager position, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Ferry, who has been serving as the franchise’s interim GM since Dell Demps was dismissed, will have the final interview for New Orleans, according to Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans have already interviewed several candidates, including former Cavs GM David Griffin, Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, and Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who had been hospitalized since Friday, has shown improvement and was released today, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. However, he will not coach the team tonight.
  • Grizzlies assistant coach Nick Van Exel has interest in the University of Cincinnati coaching gig, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter). Van Exel, who played at the university, will be looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Grizzlies assistant Jerry Stackhouse, who transitioned from Memphis’ bench to Vanderbilt’s head coaching job last week.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News has previewed the offseason for a pair of Southwest teams this week, exploring what lies ahead for the Pelicans and for the Mavericks.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Southwest Rumors: Potapenko, Cousins, Mavs Draft, Rockets

Vitaly Potapenko and Greg Buckner are among the assistants named to J.B. Bickerstaff’s staff with the Grizzlies, according to a team press release. Potapenko had been the Cavaliers’ assistant director of player development since 2013, while Buckner is a holdover from last season’s staff. As previously announced, Jerry Stackhouse will also be a top assistant for Bickerstaff. Stackhouse, who coached the Raptors’ G League the past two seasons, interviewed for several head coaching jobs. Chad Forcier, an assistant under Frank Vogel with the Magic the last two seasons, has also joined the staff along with Nick Van Exel and Adam Mazarei.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • DeMarcus Cousins will most likely stay put with the Pelicans but there are three other Western Conference teams where the big man would be a good fit, HoopsHype tweets. The Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs are the most likely landing spots for Cousins if he leaves New Orleans, HoopsHype adds.
  • A draft night trade with the Bulls might make sense for the Mavericks, Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News speculates. Dallas owns the No. 5 pick with Chicago slotted at No. 7. If Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young go a little higher than anticipated, the Mavs could move down and either Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter or Jaren Jackson would still be on the board, Cowlishaw points out.
  • Rockets fans should lower their expectations of potentially landing LeBron James or Paul George and simply hope GM Daryl Morey can upgrade a  luxury-tax team with precious few young assets, Sean Deveney of Sports Illustrated opines. Giving Chris Paul a max contract will be a tough pill but one they’ll have to swallow to remain a prime contender, Deveney adds.

Atlantic Notes: Fizdale, Porzingis, Eisley, Stevens

David Fizdale becoming the Knicks’ head coach means he will need to cultivate a strong relationship with the team’s Latvian All-Star, Kristaps Porzingis. While Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL, and is not expected till Christmas at the earliest, he will nonetheless be the key piece the Knicks will build around.

Speaking to reporters, including Marc Berman of the New York Post, from the draft combine in Chicago, Fizdale said he plans on visiting Porzingis multiple times in his native Latvia. The former Grizzlies coach added that he hopes to establish a solid relationship with the former Skills Champion.

“Multiple times maybe over the course of the summer. I want him to feel something different,” Fizdale said. “I want him to feel something that when he comes back here, it’s going to be special for him. He’s walking back into a culture and environment that’s set up for winning. That’s my biggest goal this summer, is to really bond with him and connect with him and get insight from him.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:
  • In a separate story, Berman notes that assistant coach Howard Eisley, who is in Chicago representing the Knicks, is likely to be retained as part of Fizdale’s staff. We noted last week that Eisley may be one of the few coaches from ex-head coach Jeff Hornacek’s staff to be retained. Also, Nick Van Exel, who was rumored to be New York-bound, will remain with the Grizzlies.
  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is highly regarded around the league, especially by his players and front office. Nick Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports examines whether or not Stevens may be getting too much credit, thus discounting the effort of the players and organization for the Celtics’ success.
  • Stevens’ coaching and the front office aside, the players’ performance on the court, especially in the midst of numerous injuries, has catapulted the Celtics to the brink of the NBA Finals. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston examines the biggest winners during the Celtics’ improbable run.

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Casey, Bucks, Knicks

As we relayed in our story on Dwane Casey‘s firing earlier today, it didn’t take long for one outside candidate to be linked to the Raptors‘ head coaching job, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reporting that Mike Budenholzer is a name to watch.

Budenholzer’s name continues to surface in relation to the Raptors’ newly-opened coaching position. Sources confirmed to Michael Grange of (Twitter link) that Toronto is expected to pursue Budenholzer, while Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) hears from coaching sources that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has “strong interest” in the former Hawks head coach.

As we wait to see if Budenholzer emerges as the favorite for the Raptors’ job, let’s round up more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA…

  • According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), Casey – who had one year left on his contract – sought an extension from the Raptors before he was let go. Zillgitt speculates that stance may have forced Ujiri’s hand.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide updates on the Bucks‘ coaching search, writing that the first round of interviews should wrap up this week. Milwaukee has interviewed Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Joe Prunty so far, and still has meetings lined up with David Blatt and Becky Hammon. GM Jon Horst figures to narrow the team’s list to three or four finalists, at which point team ownership will get involved in the process.
  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Jerry Stackhouse “interviews well” for coaching jobs, but “does rub some people the wrong way.” Stackhouse entered the offseason as a popular rising head coaching candidate, but has yet to gain traction for any open jobs. In fact, despite a mid-April report indicating Stackhouse would meet with the Magic, that interview has yet to happen, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • New Knicks head coach David Fizdale is expected to hire Nick Van Exel to join his staff in New York, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Like Keith Smart, who is also reportedly set to join the Knicks, Van Exel was on Fizdale’s staff in Memphis.

David Fizdale Notes: Assistants, Reactions, More

With David Fizdale and the Knicks in agreement on a four-year contract that will make the former Grizzlies coach the new head man in New York, Fizdale will now be tasked with filling out his coaching staff.

Michael Wallace of recently suggested that Fizdale could recruit some of his old Grizzlies assistants to join him elsewhere, and Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News agrees with that assessment, tweeting that a list of potential Knicks assistants should start with Bob Bender, Keith Smart, and Nick Van Exel.

Meanwhile, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype attempts to identify a few more candidates to join the Knicks as assistants, including Juwan Howard, who spent plenty of time with Fizdale in Miami.

Here are a few more items related to the Knicks’ decision to hire Fizdale:

  • An NBA source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that the Knicks are prepared to open cap room this summer in the event that LeBron James shows any interest in heading to New York. While Fizdale has a good relationship with James and it may technically be possible for the Knicks to create cap space, that scenario is an extreme long shot. As Mitch Lawrence of Forbes writes, the Knicks hope Fizdale’s popularity among NBA players with help them in free agency, but they’re probably looking ahead at least to the 2019 market.
  • Before he accepted a four-year offer from the Knicks, Fizdale turned down a four-year offer from the Suns to become their new head coach, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
  • There has been no shortage of praise for the Knicks’ decision to go with Fizdale. As Marc Berman of The New York Post relays, ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups referred to Fizdale as the “best coach on the market,” while Jalen Rose called him the “right fit” for the Knicks. Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post agrees that Fizdale is the right man for the job, and Enes Kanter told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic that he likes the ex-Grizzlies coach “a lot.”
  • Still, not everyone is bullish on the Knicks’ hire. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports believes the optimism on Fizdale is misplaced, arguing that there are still too many issues within the Knicks’ organization to expect success from any new head coach.
  • Ian Begley of takes a look at the next steps for Fizdale and the Knicks as they attempt to turn the page on years of dysfunction.

Western Notes: Marjanovic, Cuban, Davis

With the salary cap set to increase to approximately $92MM for next season this offseason is likely to be a wild one for free agents. But Mavs owner Mark Cuban casts some doubt on predictions that even marginal players will land outrageous deals this summer, Tim MacMahon of relays (ESPN Now link). “Every player thinks it’s just going to be a money train this summer. There’s a lot of money; there’s not THAT much money,” Cuban said. “And I think there’s going to be teams that save their money for next year, because it’s a better free agent class. People just presume now that everybody’s going to get paid a lot of money, and it’ll be interesting to see if that happens.

Here’s more from out West:

  • The Grizzlies officially announced the additions of J.B. Bickerstaff as associate head coach and Nick Van Exel as an assistant coach on David Fizdale‘s staff, the team relayed via press release.
  • Big man Boban Marjanovic, who is eligible for restricted free agency this summer if San Antonio submits a qualifying offer worth $1.5MM, said that he wants to return to the Spurs next season, international journalist David Pick relays (via Twitter).
  • The Mavs don’t intend to deal away any of their future draft picks this offseason unless they are absolutely blown away by the offer, MacMahon tweets. “We won’t trade a future pick unless there is a deal good enough that they would fire the other general manager for making,” Cuban told reporters.
  • The Rockets are considering veteran NBA assistant Johnny Davis for a spot on new head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s staff, Marc Stein of relays (on Twitter). Davis last coached in the NBA with the Raptors from 2011-2013.

Western Notes: Bickerstaff, Fizdale, Brown

Former Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the Grizzlies have reached agreement for him to become associate head coach on David Fizdale‘s staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). The Lakers and the Suns were also interested in adding Bickerstaff to their respective coaching staffs, Wojnarowski adds. Bickerstaff had a 37-34 record with Houston after taking over for the fired Kevin McHale in November. He had pulled his name out of consideration in the Rockets’ coaching search prior to Mike D’Antoni being hired.

Here’s more from out West:

  • Fizdale’s deal with Memphis is for four years and approximately $10.2MM, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal relays. The head coach will earn $2MM in each of his first two seasons, $3MM his third year and the final season is a team option worth $3.25MM, Tillery notes. Former NBA player Nick Van Exel, who coached the Texas Legends in the NBA D-League, also accepted a position on Fizdale’s staff, Tillery adds.
  • Warren LeGarie, the agent for former Cavs and Lakers head coach Mike Brown, refutes the report that his client had any interest in joining the Grizzlies as an assistant, Tillery relays in the same piece. “It’s never been true nor was there ever a possibility,” LeGarie, said. “Mike was asked and politely declined. We have no idea why one writer from ESPN continues to feed the narrative. I’ve never been called by him to confirm or deny and it’s just pure speculation without any legitimacy. That’s just irresponsible.”
  • Former California swingman Jaylen Brown has a workout scheduled with the Pelicans on Friday, Brett Dawson of The Advocate relays (via Twitter).
  • Big man Marreese Speights, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, isn’t sure if the team will be able to re-sign him this offseason, but noted that he prefers to remain with the Warriors, Carl Steward of The Bay Area News Group relays. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun,” Speights said. “I feel like I put myself in position on this team and in this city to make a name for myself and be one of the core guys who’s been here. It would be best to be back here, but I understand it’s a business. I’m going to give everything in these Finals, and after that, whatever happens happens.

Southwest Rumors: Grizzlies, Mavs, Terry, Parker

After a solid showing as the head coach of the D-League’s Texas Legends, Nick Van Exel appears poised to join the Grizzlies‘ coaching staff as an assistant under new coach David Fizdale, reports Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News (via Twitter). ESPN’s Marc Stein confirms (via Twitter) that Memphis is attempting to close deals with both Van Exel and J.B. Bickerstaff, as the team looks to fill out Fizdale’s staff.

According to Stein (Twitter links), the Grizzlies are also “aggressively pursuing” former Cavs and Lakers head coach Mike Brown, who has also drawn interest from the Warriors. Stein suggests that Brown is more likely to head to Memphis than Golden State, but Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (Twitter link) hears from Brown’s agent that the former head coach is no lock to join the Grizzlies.

As we wait for Memphis to officially name its assistant coaches, let’s check in some other items from around the Southwest division….

  • Even as he inches closer to age 40, Dirk Nowitzki remains the face of the Mavericks, but the team will attempt to infuse more youth into its roster around the longtime star, writes Earl K. Sneed of Veteran guard Jason Terry suggested on SiriusXM NBA Radio (SoundCloud link) that he doesn’t expect to return to Dallas as a free agent, with the team focused on getting younger.
  • Despite Terry’s pessimism about signing with the Mavericks this summer, Sefko includes the veteran in a list of five free agent shooting guards who he believes would be fits for Dallas.
  • Spurs guard Tony Parker aspires to become an NBA general manager once his playing days are done, and as he tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the NBA’s 2011 lockout provided him an opportunity to get a head start on his training for such a job. “The best thing was to be in the office every day during the lockout and see the everyday operations,” Parker said. “I looked at everything. How to manage a team, marketing, ticket sales, sponsors. It was a great learning experience for me. It’s getting me ready to work in an NBA front office.”