Randy Wittman

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Exum, Wittman, Abrines

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and members of the organization are furious over his All-Star snub. Gobert told Aaron Falk of the team’s website and other media members that he can’t understand how coaches can preach defense and then leave him off their ballots. “It’s disrespectful not only toward me but toward the team, the organization and toward the game,” said Gobert, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Jazz coach Quin Snyder echoed Gobert’s gripe, ESPN’s Tim McMahon tweets. “We talk about defense being valued, but when we have a chance to reward it, we reward scoring again and again.” Jazz president Steve Starks tweeted that there should be more transparency in the voting. The coaches select the reserves. “Complete nonsense and we need more integrity and accountability. If the coaches vote than their ballots should be made public.”

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Reserve Jazz guard Dante Exum will not return to action until sometime after the All-Star break, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reports. Exum hasn’t played since suffering a left ankle sprain against Detroit on January 5th. He has been participating in on-court work but won’t even be re-evaluated until after the break. Exum signed a three-year, $33MM contract last summer.
  • The Timberwolves have hired former head coach Randy Wittman as an advisor to first-year coach Ryan Saunders, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Saunders was on the Wizards’ staff when Wittman was the head coach there. “He’s an ear for me,” Saunders told Hine. “Another basketball mind to bounce things off of. I’m comfortable with him, known him for a long time.”
  • Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines has returned to action but he’ll have to work his way back into the rotation, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Abrines played six minutes against Orlando on Tuesday after missing 17 games due to an illness and a personal matter. During his absence, Abdel Nader seized a rotation spot. Abrines will have battle Nader and Terrance Ferguson for minutes.

Magic Hire Randy Wittman As Coaching Consultant

SEPTEMBER 18: The Magic have confirmed the changes to their coaching staff noted below, announcing today in a press release that Wittman has joined the club as a coaching consultant, while Hernandez and Hill are now assistant coaches.

SEPTEMBER 3: Former Wizards head coach Randy Wittman is completing a deal to become a coaching consultant in Orlando, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. He will report directly to head coach Frank Vogel in the new position.

The Magic have an opening on their staff with the departure of David Adelman to Denver. Wojnarowski adds that current Orlando assistants Jay Hernandez and Matt Hill will both be promoted (Twitter link).

Wittman compiled a 178-199 record in four and a half seasons as head coach in Washington. He led the team to two playoff appearances and two second-round exits before being fired in 2016. Wittman has also served as head coach of the Cavaliers and Timberwolves and spent a year as an assistant in Orlando in 2005/06.

Eastern Notes: Casey, Payton, Wittman

If the Raptors had failed to make it past the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, coach Dwane Casey would have likely lost his job, league sources told Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. The other notable development in Toronto during the postseason is the stellar play of center Bismack Biyombo, who is likely pricing himself out of a return to the Raptors with the team only holding the big man’s Non-Bird rights, Lowe notes. Some rival executives are wondering if the team will try and trade center Jonas Valanciunas this offseason in order to create the necessary cap room to re-sign Biyombo, the scribe relays.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic point guard Elfrid Payton could be one of the players who will benefit most from the arrival of new coach Frank Vogel, and the young playmaker is pleased with the hire, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders relays. “I’m pretty excited,” Payton said of Vogel coaching the Magic. “I trust [GM] Rob [Hennigan], so whatever he’s with, I’m with. … Coach and I spoke briefly. Everybody [on the team] seems pretty excited about the hire.”
  • The Pistons could benefit by adding depth at point guard via the draft and potential targets for the team include Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) and Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), David Mayo of MLive opines. The top two point guards, Kris Dunn (Providence) and Jamal Murray (Kentucky), are expected to be off the board when Detroit selects at No. 18 overall. Mayo notes.
  • Former Wizards coach Randy Wittman relates well to veteran players, gets his roster to buy in defensively and has a career record that compares favorably to Vogel, new Kings coach Dave Joerger and new Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, J. Michael of CSNMid-Atlantic writes in his look at Wittman’s chances of landing another head coaching slot.

Eastern Notes: Heat, Vogel, Brooks, Olynyk

Several Heat players had their minds on the future after today’s Game 7 loss at Toronto. The overall feeling is that most players want to return next season and they hope free agent center Hassan Whiteside is with them, tweets Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. One exception could be Amar’e Stoudemire, who was unhappy with his playing time after signing a one-year deal with Miami as a free agent last summer (Twitter link). However, Stoudemire also felt the Heat had “great chemistry” and said, “I enjoyed the guys and I had the best time of my life with my teammates this season.” (Twitter link). Veteran Udonis Haslem, who has been with Miami for his entire 13-year career, understands he may have to find a new team to stay in the league next season. “There’s a business side to everything, so you never know,” Haslem said (Twitter link). Joe Johnson, who will be a free agent after joining the Heat in late February, said it’s too early to think about his next move (Twitter link). Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts are the only Miami players with guaranteed deals for next season.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks are hoping to hire a coach in the next week or so, writes Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal. Frank Vogel, who met with team president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills Wednesday in Los Angeles, is apparently a finalist for the job, along with David Blatt and interim coach Kurt Rambis. Vogel reportedly spent much of his interview making the case that the understands the triangle and would incorporate it into his offense.
  • The Bucks will interview Utah executive Justin Zanik and former Charlotte GM Rod Higgins for an open front office position, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Milwaukee is looking for someone to work with GM John Hammond (Twitter link).
  • New Wizards coach Scott Brooks traveled to Orlando this week for a meeting with Marcin Gortat, according to Keely Diven of CSNMidAtlantic. Brooks is hoping to establish a better relationship with his starting center than former coach Randy Wittman, who feuded publicly with Gortat.
  • Kelly Olynyk will have to undergo surgery soon on his injured right shoulder in order to be ready for the start of next season, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Olynyk has been hoping he can help the Canadian national team qualify for the Summer Olympics, but with a five-month projected recovery time, he is already likely to miss at least some of the Celtics‘ training camp.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Nene, Whiteside, Wade

Nicolas Batum has been “perfect” for the Hornets, contends Kemba Walker, who hopes the team shells out the money necessary to keep the swingman as he heads into free agency this summer, notes Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. Still, it’s conceivable that Batum has played his final game for the team, as he suffered a sprained left ankle Wednesday in the second game of Charlotte’s first-round series versus the Heat. Teammate Al Jefferson doesn’t think he’ll be back at any point during the series, according to Justin Verrier of ESPN.com, and with the Hornets down 2-0, the outlook is bleak. Batum won’t rule out leaving for another team, but he’s said he wants to be back with Charlotte, as Fowler relays. “Our core is young, we signed our coach to an extension and we’re winning,” Batum said as the playoffs began. “We can have a great run here.”

See more from the Southeast Division:

  • Randy Wittman‘s refusal to criticize Nene was at the heart of the reason John Wall recently cited a lack of accountability on the Wizards, sources told J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Other Wizards players also saw it as part of the ex-coach’s declining favor within the locker room this past season, Michael writes. Wittman was also loath to criticize Ramon Sessions, who went so far as to ask the coach to be more critical of him, according to Michael. Washington fired Wittman last week, and Nene and Sessions are set to become free agents this summer.
  • Sessions has never been a full-time starter in any of his nine NBA seasons, but he said he’s gunning for a starting job as he approaches free agency, observes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post.
  • Hassan Whiteside had plenty of praise for the Heat coaching staff and front office this week, a clear sign of his appreciation to Miami for helping revive his career, tweets Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. Whiteside is No. 10 in the latest Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings.

Eastern Notes: Grunfeld, Harris, Plumlee, Marks

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld was disappointed by the failure to make the playoffs but insists his team has a strong foundation for the future, according to Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Washington fired coach Randy Wittman shortly after the 41-41 season came to a close. “The players tell you what to do, and I thought we were very inconsistent this year,” Grunfeld said. “That’s probably the only consistent thing about us: We went up and down. And there was no sense of urgency. I don’t think we played with the type of energy on a nightly basis that you need to achieve the kind of goals that we had. We had high expectations internally and externally.” Grunfeld will lead the search for the Wizards’ next coach and says he has already heard from agents for several interested applicants.

There’s more tonight from the Eastern Conference:

  • The trade that brought Tobias Harris to the Pistons emerged right before the deadline, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News“His name wasn’t even out there for us until two days before we did the deal,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “We were really surprised.” Harris averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after arriving from Orlando, helping Detroit secure its first playoff spot since 2009 and the first of Harris’ career.
  • Center Miles Plumlee is looking forward to next year after the late-season surge that made him a key part of the Bucks‘ rotation, writes Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel“I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to get out there and play,” Plumlee said. “I love the game. I love the team here. I think we’re building something really special and I hope to continue to be a part of it.” Plumlee completed his four-year rookie scale contract and will enter restricted free agency this summer.
  • Sean Marks started fining players for showing up late after taking over as Nets GM, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Several players confirmed to Lewis that frequent lateness was a problem with the team.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Dudley, Wittman

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld will head the team’s search for a new coach in the wake of Randy Wittman‘s dismissal today, as Grunfeld told reporters, a remark that appears to remove lingering doubt about the executive’s future with the team, observes J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Earlier reports conflicted about Grunfeld’s job security, though he’s under contract through next season.

See more from Washington, where the Wizards reportedly have strong interest in Scott Brooks and others, as we passed along in our Wittman story.

  • Wizards players concluded that they couldn’t rely on the team’s coaches when they held a players-only meeting in January that veteran Jared Dudley organized, and Dudley criticized the coaching staff’s lack of adjustments in March, Michael notes, suggesting Wittman changed Dudley’s role in retaliation.
  • John Wall wants to see the Wizards re-sign soon-to-be free agents Dudley, Alan Anderson and Garrett Temple, Michael writes in a separate piece. Anderson is enthusiastic about a new deal with the team, and while Dudley is open to returning as long as Wittman isn’t around, he’s looking for the security of a long-term contract, according to Michael, who speculates Dudley is unlikely to be back.
  • The partial guarantee on Wittman’s salary for next season is $500K, sources tell Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (Twitter link), so the Wizards are still responsible for paying that much to the fired coach.
  • Wittman issued a statement in which he said he believes the team is headed in the right direction as he thanked the organization for the opportunity to coach, as Castillo relays via Twitter.

Atlantic Notes: Prokhorov, Crowder, Casey

Russian law enforcement and tax officials are searching the Moscow offices of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s company, ONEXIM, reports Yuliya Fedorinova of Bloomberg.com. It’s not entirely clear why the search is taking place, though the Russian wire service Interfax reports the search has to do with offshore investment and tax payments and is part of a criminal proceeding, according to NetsDaily (Twitter link). Prokhorov ran against Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2012, and Putin is applying political pressure on offshore investors, as Fedorinova details. The ONEXIM under investigation isn’t the same as the holding company that controls the Nets, as NetsDaily points out.

While we wait to find out the implications of the Brooklyn-related news, see more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Magic insisted that the Celtics include Jae Crowder in a would-be deal when the sides discussed potential Tobias Harris trades before the deadline, and Orlando’s insistence on Crowder stopped the talks from going further, a league source told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. Crowder isn’t untouchable, but he’s close, a league executive whose team negotiated with the Celtics told Blakely.
  • The Raptors have yet to pick up the team option on their contract with coach Dwane Casey for next season, but GM Masai Ujiri strongly signaled Wednesday that the team will, as expected, observes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). “He’s been phenomenal I think, whether it’s reading games or adjustments, or just growth overall as a coach,” Ujiri said. “To be honest, everyone makes such a big deal like ‘OK, if we don’t make it past the first round, what will happen to Casey?’ Well Coach Casey deserves to be our coach, that’s 100% and I stand by that. He deserves to be our coach in the future because he has put in the work I think to bring winning to our program. The players have responded well I think, and it has translated a little bit and we hope it translates to the playoffs and I’m very hopeful it will because he’s a defensive minded coach but he’s been tremendous for us.”
  • Owner James Dolan still trusts team president Phil Jackson and his triangle offense, sources tell Marc Berman of the New York Post, and it’s doubtful Jackson will opt out of his deal after next season, as he hopes to serve out his contract, which runs until March 2019, Berman writes. Some around the league think Dolan wants Jackson to think about deferring to GM Steve Mills for the decision on the team’s next head coach if the Zen Master does intend to opt out, and if that’s the case, Mark Jackson, Scott Brooks and Randy Wittman, along with David Blatt, would be candidates, according to Berman.

Wizards Fire Randy Wittman

Tommy Gilligan / USA TODAY Sports Images

Tommy Gilligan / USA TODAY Sports Images

THURSDAY, 8:04am: The firing is official, the Wizards announced.

“There were high internal and external expectations for this team coming into this season based on the momentum we had generated over the previous two years,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said in the team’s statement. “Unfortunately, the inconsistency of the team’s performance and effort, particularly on our home court, did not allow us to meet those expectations and we decided a coaching change was needed.”

Grunfeld nonetheless complimented Wittman on the way out, as the statement conveys.

“Randy should be commended for the job he did in taking over as head coach during a very difficult time for our franchise and for helping to establish a culture and identity that led to success,” Grunfeld said. “This was a very tough decision on a personal level, and we wish Randy and his family the best moving forward.”   

11:37pm: The team is prioritizing experience and defense, according to Michael, who casts doubt on D’Antoni’s candidacy (Twitter links). Michael initially referred to Brooks and Tom Thibodeau as the top candidates but followed up minutes later to say Thibodeau is not a serious candidate.

11:28pm: The Wizards are also interested in Sixers assistant Mike D’Antoni, Wojnarowski reports. The team thought about going after Brooks at midseason, and they plan to aggressively court him now, Wojnarowski hears. Brooks is fond of D.C., Zillgitt notes (Twitter link), though he’s a candidate for the Timberwolves and Rockets and is believed to be waiting to see what the Lakers do with Byron Scott, Wojnarowski adds.

11:18pm: The firing has taken place, sources tell Stein (Twitter link), and the Wizards have informed Wittman of his fate, a league source tells The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), though the team has yet to make any official announcement.

WEDNESDAY, 10:36pm: The Wizards will fire coach Randy Wittman, a source tells Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Scott Brooks and Jeff Hornacek are strong candidates to replace him, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski hears. (Twitter links). Monty Williams is another name to watch, given his roots in the Washington, D.C. area and his ties to free agent target and D.C. native Kevin Durant, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

The news about Wittman comes as no shock, as reports throughout Wednesday signaled the move would happen. Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops reported earlier this month that Wittman wasn’t expected to remain. Washington will eat the partial guarantee, of an unknown amount, on the final season of Wittman’s contract, which paid him more than $3MM a year.

Washington finished 41-41 this season but missed the playoffs. Wittman guided the Wizards to back-to-back appearances in the second round of the playoffs the past two years, the first such accomplishment for the franchise since it made consecutive trips to the NBA finals in 1978 and 1979. However, a shift to a more perimeter-oriented attack this season fell flat, and multiple players publicly criticized the coach. It went both ways, as Marcin Gortat stewed for months after Wittman criticized his lack of rebounding after a game in November, according to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, who wrote recently that the coach’s relationship with the players had deteriorated this season.

Wittman will finish 178-199 as coach of the Wizards, a tenure that spanned parts of five seasons. He replaced Flip Saunders in the middle of the lockout-shortened 2011/12 campaign.

Latest On Wizards, Randy Wittman

4:45pm: Multiple Wizards players tell J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic they expect the team will fire Wittman.

12:47pm: The belief is widespread in NBA coaching circles that the Wizards are poised to fire Wittman, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

9:52am: It’s unlikely the Wizards will keep Randy Wittman for next season, the last on his contract, league sources tell Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, who adds that Wizards players believe that Wittman senses the team won’t retain him. That jibes with the general sentiment of late, with Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops reporting last week that Wittman isn’t expected to keep his job and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com expressing that same belief in a recent appearance on WTEM-AM’s “The Tony Kornheiser Show” (audio link, scroll to 10:45; transcription via James Herbert of CBSSports.com).

Conversely, the Wizards are expected to retain team president Ernie Grunfeld, Castillo writes. Previous reports have conflicted on that matter.

Wittman’s contract calls for him to make more than $3MM per year, Castillo notes, though only an unknown portion of that is guaranteed for next season. Several people around the league wondered as the season began about the possibility that the Wizards would let Wittman’s fate hang in the balance until July so that free agent target Kevin Durant could weigh in on the decision, as The Vertical’s Chris Mannix reported for SI.com in November. That was before a disappointing season that’s appeared to dampen the chances of Durant choosing to play in his native Washington, D.C.

The season has taken a toll on the relationship between Wittman and his players, as J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic recently wrote, and it’s the combination of that and the team’s subpar performance that have sparked the belief amongst the players that Wittman thinks he’s about to lose his job, according to Castillo. Wittman took the team to the second round of the playoffs the past two years, the first time that’s happened for the franchise since back-to-back trips to the Finals in 1978 and 1979, but Washington has been eliminated from contention for a postseason berth with a 40-41 record this season.

Does Wittman deserve to take the fall for the struggles of the Wizards? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.