Spencer Rivers

Central Notes: Smith, LaVine, Mitchell, Rivers, Bucks’ Staff, Wright

On the surface, the Bulls’ three-year agreement with free agent Jalen Smith may not seem like a big deal. But The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry believes the former Pacers big man could be due for a breakout season.

Smith fits into the Bulls’ aim of getting younger and more athletic. He’s adept at rim-running and offensive rebounding and he’ll improve their interior defense, Mayberry writes, adding that Smith could even become the starter if Nikola Vucevic is dealt.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • An NBA insider tells The Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley that the relationship between Zach LaVine and the Bulls’ top brass is completely shattered and “filled with mistrust.” The Bulls are trying hard to move LaVine and his big contract. If they fail in those efforts before training camp, the front office and ownership would consider that the worst-case scenario.
  • With the Cavaliers getting Donovan Mitchell to agree to an extension, the gamble they made in agreeing to that blockbuster 2022 deal with Utah has paid off for the team and the city, Jason Lloyd of The Athletic opines. Mitchell’s presence in the Cleveland lineup will keep it in contention for the foreseeable future, he adds.
  • The Bucks have salary-cap issues and will have to rely more on their younger players to fill in the gaps. Coach Doc Rivers isn’t fazed by that prospect, he told Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We wanted young talent. We did,” Rivers said. “We think that skill development in our league is becoming more and more important. The more of the young talent you can get to bring up with the veteran talent, the better. And that’s what we’re going to do all summer. Free agency is here right now, and now we’re looking for other guys, more veterans, to add to the mix. I like the mix of guys I think we’re going to end up with and it’s exactly the ratio that we want right now.”
  • The Bucks have finalized their coaching staff, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. The Bucks have hired Darvin Ham, Greg Buckner, Jason Love and Spencer Rivers as additions to the staff this summer. Dave Joerger, Rex Kalamian, Pete Dominguez, Joe Prunty and Vin Baker will remain on Rivers’ staff.
  • The Bucks are adding veteran guard Delon Wright on a one-year deal and Nehm takes a closer look at what he could bring to the rotation.

Pistons Notes: Williams, Assistants, Gores, Youth

After his wife Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer during a playoff run with the Suns this spring and he was subsequently fired by the team, Monty Williams was reticent to latch on with a new club right away. Lisa’s health ultimately delayed Williams’ decision to agree to a deal with the Pistons, and that delay led to some additional contract perks, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic.

“I had a situation, personally, in my family that needed attention,” Williams said during his introductory press conference this week. “I talked to my wife about whether or not we should talk about that publicly, but that was a huge part of my decision-making. The patience that (team president Troy Weaver) and Mr. Gores (Pistons owner Tom Gores) had with me as we navigated that told me a lot.”

Edwards reveals that, beyond a record-setting salary, the added perks Detroit allocated to Williams included a “health and welfare fund” which would help the Williams family pay incurred healthcare costs that their insurance would not finance and access to a private jet to spend more time with Lisa, who will be receiving care in Phoenix.

As Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes, after being let go by the Suns, Williams was considering taking a year off from coaching to spend more time with his family.

There’s more out of the Motor City:

  • Williams will be bringing much of his former Phoenix bench with him to the Pistons, in addition to some new assistants. In another article for The Free Press, Sankofa unpacks what Detroit’s fresh batch of assistant coaches will bring to the table. Stephen Silas, the head coach of the Rockets from 2020-23, is set to serve as Williams’ lead assistant. Former Suns assistant coaches Brian Randle, Steve Scalzi and Mark Bryant will be joined by ex-Sixers assistant Dan Burke. Jamelle McMillan (son of Nate McMillan) and Spencer Rivers (son of Doc Rivers) will be player development coaches under Williams. Sankofa hints that some other recent assistant coaches under former Pistons head coach Dwane Casey could stick around in the Williams regime.
  • Gores emphasized the import of securing Williams’ services to help guide his rebuilding club back to NBA relevance, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News. “It was critical,” the Pistons’ owner said. “It’s a really important time. It was also about these players over here. They literally have trusted us and were holding their own practices and they have their own fortitude. They really were able to stay together and there was a moment when Troy and I, we were together and we said, ‘Those young men are relying on us.’ We had, I wouldn’t call it a yelling match at all, but we just talked about how important it was to deliver to our players.”
  • Sankofa notes in an additional piece that Williams is encouraged by the investment his new young players already appear to have in his abilities. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press conference for a coach and all of the players show up,” Williams said. “That’s what I see. A hunger, a desire. They all want it. It really gets to you when you think about it. I could go on and on about what I’ve seen on film. I’ve also talked to them about what we need. We need to do some things a lot better. They’ve all been willing, they’ve all been receptive.”