Stephen Silas

Pistons Notes: Cunningham, Stewart, Silas, Wiseman

Cade Cunningham missed most of last season with a shin injury but it wasn’t a wasted year, Keith Langlois of writes. The top pick of the 2021 draft firmly established himself as a team leader.

“His voice is always in the locker room. His voice is always in our ears,” center Jalen Duren said. “For me, for sure, and (Jaden Ivey) coming in as rookies, he was always giving us advice and walking us through everything. Him not being on the floor, we didn’t lose a step with him in his voice and his appearance. He was always around. That’s just testament to who he is as a person. He’s a guy who just loves to work. He’s a guy who’s a leader at heart. That’s just who he is.”

We have more from the Pistons:

  • The front office had additional motivation to sign Isaiah Stewart to a four-year extension, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Stewart was part of general manager Troy Weaver’s first draft class with the organization. The team’s lottery pick that year, Killian Hayes, is unlikely to stick around long-term since Weaver has drafted guards Cunningham, Ivey, and Marcus Sasser, along with trading for Monte Morris. The other first-rounder in 2020, Saddiq Bey, was dealt at the trade deadline last February. Optically, it was important for the rebuilding franchise to have something to show for its initial draft class, according to Edwards.
  • After serving as the Rockets’ head coach for three seasons during their rebuild, Stephen Silas believes he’s in the right spot as a top assistant to Monty Williams, he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “It’s a good situation for me because I can take a lot of the experience that I had with the Rockets and pour it into this situation with these young guys and kind of see stuff before it’s coming after three years,” Silas said. “So it’s kind of good for me, and to work with Monty and the coaching staff and ownership and management, they’re all top-notch. It’s really fun.”
  • James Wiseman‘s assertiveness in two Summer League games has been one of the positives for the Pistons in Las Vegas, per Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link). Wiseman has been effective both in the post and on perimeter jumpers. Wiseman has averaged 16.5 points in the two games while posting double-doubles both times. He’s eligible for an extension this offseason or else will be eligible for restricted free agency after next season.

Stephen Silas Agrees To Join Pistons As Assistant Coach

Stephen Silas will become the top assistant to Monty Williams with the Pistons, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Silas had served in the same role with the Mavericks, Hornets and Warriors before being hired as the Rockets’ head coach in 2020.

Silas compiled a 59-177 record with Houston, which switched into rebuilding mode when James Harden requested a trade early in Silas’ first season. The Rockets dismissed Silas in April, turning down a team option on the final year of his contract.

Silas had been rumored as a strong candidate to join Joe Mazzulla‘s staff with the Celtics and made an appearance at a first-round playoff game in Boston. Word leaked on Sunday that the Celtics will hire Sam Cassell as an assistant, which may have affected Silas’ decision.

In Detroit, Silas will join a young team similar to the one he left in Houston. The Pistons have been stockpiling young talent, and they hold the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft. Like the Rockets, they are hoping to move out of the rebuilding stage and contend for a play-in spot next season.

Joe Mazzulla To Remain Celtics’ Head Coach

Joe Mazzulla will return as the Celtics’ head coach, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said in a press conference on Thursday, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets.

Mazzulla was thrust into the head coaching job just as the season was set to begin when Ime Udoka was suspended by the team for the season. Mazzulla eventually had the interim tag removed and received an extension in mid-season.

Questions about Mazzulla’s status arose as the Celtics fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series to underdog Miami in the conference finals. Boston rallied to tie the series but played poorly in Game 7 after Jayson Tatum suffered a first-quarter injury and got eliminated on its home floor.

Stevens believes that Mazzulla will benefit from having been thrown into the fire this past season, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets.

“Joe’s experience now, you could probably measure in dog years, right? Because he’s now been in three Eastern Conference finals and a Finals,” said Stevens, referring to Mazzulla’s stint as an assistant as well as this season. “Now he’s been the head coach throughout one of those runs, I mean that’s an experience in and of itself.”

Stevens believes Mazzulla has the leadership qualities to be a head coach for many seasons, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets.

“He’s a terrific leader,” he said. “He’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year cause he’s constantly trying to learn and he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find.”

Mazzulla will have some different voices on the staff, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). The staff is expected to be overhauled, with former Rockets coach Stephen Silas a leading candidate to be one of those additions.

Coaching Rumors: Mazzulla, Bucks, Williams, Suns, Raptors, Nash

Celtics staffers, including president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, have shown “unwavering support” this season for head coach Joe Mazzulla, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who says the sentiment as recently as last week was that Mazzulla would get plenty of runway to continue growing into the role he was thrust into following Ime Udoka‘s suspension last fall.

[RELATED: Joe Mazzulla In Jeopardy After Game 3 Loss?]

While it’s possible the Celtics could have a change of heart and decide to make a coaching change if the team is eliminated from the postseason in embarrassing fashion on Tuesday – or in the coming days – it would be a “stark change of direction” from the team’s original plan, Fischer writes.

While Fischer considers it unlikely that Mazzulla is replaced this offseason, he suggests that the Celtics’ coaching staff could undergo some significant changes, with multiple current assistants considered candidates to join Udoka with the Rockets. Frank Vogel and Stephen Silas are among the former head coaches who have been linked to the Celtics as possible assistant coach targets, Fischer notes.

Here’s more on the NBA’s coaching carousel from Fischer:

  • With the Bucks still focused on contending for championships with rosters built around Giannis Antetokounmpo, there’s some skepticism that Adrian Griffin – the only one of their three finalists without previous head coaching experience – will ultimately claim that job. However, Fischer acknowledges that Griffin has “certainly impressed” Bucks management during the interview process. Milwaukee’s search is expected to conclude this week, Fischer reports.
  • Many people around the league thought Monty Williams would be a serious candidate for the Bucks‘ coaching job and were surprised that he wasn’t a finalist in that process, per Fischer. The Pistons registered some interest in Williams, but he doesn’t appear to be in the mix for that job either and seems likely to take next season off, Fischer adds. James L. Edwards III of The Athletic also said Williams may not coach anywhere in 2023/24, which shouldn’t come as a surprise — he’s still owed $21MM by Phoenix, so it’s not as if he needs to rush into another position.
  • Former Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers is expected to receive consideration from the Suns, but Mike Budenholzer isn’t viewed as a likely candidate for Phoenix, Fischer writes.
  • The Raptors continue to take their time with their head coaching search, bringing back several candidates – including Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez and Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic – for second interviews, says Fischer. Many of the team’s initial meetings took place on Zoom, according to Fischer, who identifies Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as a name to watch in Toronto’s search.
  • Steve Nash, who interviewed for the Raptors’ vacancy, is “determined to learn from his shortcomings” following his first coaching stint in Brooklyn and has a strong desire to earn another head coaching job at some point, Fischer writes.

Coaching Rumors: Rivers, Sixers, Rockets, Nets, Vogel, More

As the Sixers enter the offseason, there’s a sense that James Harden‘s and Doc Rivers‘ futures are linked, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne explained during an appearance on NBA Today (podcast link). The star guard will become a free agent if he declines his 2023/24 player option, while the head coach finds himself on the hot seat after another second-round playoff exit for Philadelphia.

“James Harden can become a free agent, which means you have to decide if you want to give him a four-year contract. Do you want to lock this in for the next four years?” Shelburne said (hat tip to RealGM). “That decision, from what I understand talking to people around the (Sixers), also now becomes tied to the decision about Doc Rivers. Because James Harden was not all that supportive of Doc Rivers in his press conference (on Sunday). I think behind the scenes, from what I’m told, one person said, ‘It would be hard for me to see James wanting to come back and play for Doc again.’

“This is going to be a situation where those two decisions are linked. As we go forward into this offseason and you have another second round exit, you have to decide if you want to lock in your future around (Joel Embiid and Harden). And then, if you’re doing that, what does that mean for Doc Rivers? Because the decisions seem to be linked.”

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to a handful of NBA executives and scouts at this week’s draft combine to get an idea of which head coaching candidates the Sixers might look at if they do decide to move on from Rivers.

Multiple execs identified Nick Nurse as a logical fit, according to Scotto, who says there’s also been a sense for some time that Mike D’Antoni would be an option due to his longtime relationship with Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. A couple sources named Monty Williams as a possible target too, but he’s drawing interest from multiple teams and may have a more favorable opportunity available, Scotto notes.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • As the Rockets look to fill Ime Udoka‘s coaching staff, it’s worth keeping an eye on Celtics assistants Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan and Nets assistant Royal Ivey as potential targets, league sources tell Scotto.
  • The Nets are hiring Jay Hernandez as an assistant coach, according to Scotto. Hernandez worked in recent years as an assistant in Charlotte and was previously a member of Jacque Vaughn‘s staff in Orlando.
  • Will Weaver, a former NBA assistant who is currently coaching Paris Basketball, has drawn interest from multiple NBA teams this offseason, including the Nets and Raptors, reports Scotto.
  • If veteran coach Frank Vogel doesn’t get a head coaching opportunity this spring, he’ll be a popular target for teams seeking an experienced assistant. He has received interest from the Mavericks, according to Scotto, who adds that Vogel and Stephen Silas could be targets for the Celtics.

Stein’s Latest: Bridges, Udoka, Raptors, Mavericks, Silas

Rival front offices are expecting Miles Bridges to re-sign with the Hornets this summer, Marc Stein states in his latest Substack article. Bridges, who will be suspended for the first 10 games of next season, didn’t play this year after being charged with felony domestic abuse for a June 2022 incident. Stein adds that in announcing the suspension, commissioner Adam Silver cited a mutual agreement between league officials and Bridges’ representatives at Klutch Sports that resulted in him sitting out the 2022/23 season.

Stein notes that Charlotte has a June 29 deadline to tender a $7.7MM qualifying offer that will make him a restricted free agent. One indication of Bridges’ possible intentions, Stein adds, is an online photo of himself that he recently posted wearing Hornets gear during a workout.

Bridges was expected to be one of the top names on the 2022 free agent market before the domestic abuse case. He became a full-time starter during his fourth NBA season and averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 80 games.

There’s more from Stein:

  • Ime Udoka, who was hired as the Rockets‘ new head coach last week, was on a similar hiatus from the league. Udoka was suspended for the season by the Celtics following an affair with a subordinate, and although there was no official punishment from the NBA, the league office agreed with the way Boston handled the situation, Stein adds. “The Celtics decided that he should be suspended for a year,” Silver said. “We reviewed that and determined it was fair under those circumstances. And then when other teams — and it wasn’t just the Rockets — asked us if he would be able to coach next season, we said he would be.” 
  • The Raptors had interest in hiring Udoka to replace Nick Nurse, but they intended to conduct a thorough coaching search that would last well into May, sources tell Stein. When the Rockets made a four-year offer reportedly worth $28.5MM, Udoka thought it was best to take that opportunity.
  • The Mavericks are expected to consider James Borrego and Jeff Hornacek for openings on Jason Kidd‘s staff. Stein adds that Frank Vogel would be a logical addition because Kidd worked for him with the Lakers, but Vogel is still pursuing head coaching opportunities. Stein mentions former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts as another possibility for Dallas.
  • The Celtics would like to hire ex-Rockets head coach Stephen Silas as an assistant to Joe Mazzulla next season, sources tell Stein. Silas was seen in Boston last week at Game 5 of the first-round series with Atlanta.

Rockets Part Ways With Stephen Silas

April 10: The Rockets have officially declined their option and parted ways with Silas, the team announced.

On behalf of the Fertitta family and the entire Rockets organization, I would like to thank Stephen for his contributions to the team and the Houston community over the past three seasons,” said general manager Rafael Stone.  “I have great respect for Stephen both as a person and as a basketball mind. His character, leadership, and positivity have been invaluable during this stage of our growth.”

April 9: Stephen Silas won’t return in 2023/24 as the Rockets‘ head coach, according to reports from Kelly Iko, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Because he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract for next season, Silas isn’t technically being fired. However, Houston will turn down its team option on the final year of Silas’ deal and will hire a new head coach.

Rockets management is expected to meet with Silas on Monday to formally part ways, according to The Athletic and ESPN (Twitter link). Word of his exit broke moments after the club won its regular season finale on Sunday.

“I feel proud,” Silas said after Sunday’s game (Twitter link via Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). “I wanted to be a head coach my whole life like my dad (Paul Silas). I’m proud of these guys. There’s been a lot of talk about my job for a long time. They kept working and playing hard, playing hard for their coach. I’m proud of that.”

Silas was hired by the Rockets to replace Mike D’Antoni prior to the 2020/21 season, back when James Harden and Russell Westbrook were still on the roster. Both of those stars requested trades early in Silas’ tenure and the team pivoted to a rebuild, significantly altering the nature of the job. Silas ultimately led the Rockets to a 59-177 (.250) record during his three years with the club, which was the NBA’s worst record during that time.

According to The Athletic’s story, the Rockets seriously considered firing Silas after slow starts both last season and this season, but he was able to save his job in both instances due to timely wins during those evaluation periods. Following the passing on Stephen’s father Paul this past December, the Rockets intended to let Silas finish the season.

Iko, Charania, and Amick say that Houston believes a head coaching change is necessary to take a next step toward contention, adding that the team will prioritize a more established coach when seeking Silas’ replacement.

Sources tell The Athletic that Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, and former NBA head coaches Frank Vogel, James Borrego, and Ime Udoka are expected to be among Houston’s candidates. Chris Mannix of (Twitter link) suggests that Trail Blazers assistant Scott Brooks, another former head coach, is also drawing interest from the Rockets.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse would be a target too if he doesn’t remain in Toronto, according to The Athletic’s reporters, who say the Rockets will have about eight candidates on their wish list.

As for Silas, he’ll likely be a popular target for teams seeking experienced assistant coaches this offseason, says Wojnarowski. Because he isn’t owed guaranteed money from the Rockets in 2023/24, Silas seems less likely to take a year off before finding a new job.

Coaching Changes May Be Coming In Detroit, Toronto, Houston

The Pistons, Raptors and Rockets are the main teams to watch for head coaching changes once the NBA season ends, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Detroit’s Dwane Casey met with ownership to discuss his future after Wednesday’s game, and sources tell Fischer that some staff members are preparing for a change to take place. Fischer cites a source with knowledge of the situation who says Casey may be given the option of returning as head coach for the final year of his contract or moving into an advisory role with the front office.

Bucks assistant Charles Lee, who has interviewed for numerous head coaching positions in the past, is a top candidate if the Pistons’ job opens up, according to Fischer, who hears that Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin may be given consideration as well. Griffin previously worked under general manager Troy Weaver as an assistant coach in Oklahoma City.

Nick Nurse amplified questions about his status in Toronto last weekend when he said he plans to take some time after the season to evaluate his future with the organization. There were already rumors that the Raptors were considering a coaching move following a disappointing season that will result in a spot in the play-in tournament.

Former Celtics coach Ime Udoka is considered a leading candidate to replace Nurse if he either decides to move on or is dismissed by the team. Udoka was a finalist for the job before Nurse was hired in 2018, and he has a strong relationship with executive Masai Ujiri through the Basketball Without Borders program.

Nurse could wind up in Houston, where Stephen Silas appears likely to be replaced after three years of rebuilding, Fischer adds. Nurse was the Rockets’ G League coach from 2011-13, but he’s not the only potential candidate with ties to Houston or to James Harden, who will reportedly be an offseason target in free agency.

Fischer notes that Trail Blazers assistant Scott Brooks coached Harden in Oklahoma City, while Pistons assistant Rex Kalamian worked on Brooks’ staff with the Thunder. Fischer states that Kalamian has been mentioned by several NBA sources as a potential addition in Houston, possibly as an assistant.

Elsewhere, Fischer hears that league personnel are watching Steve Clifford’s future with the Hornets. The current leadership isn’t considering replacing Clifford, who’s still on the first season of his new contract, Fischer adds, but that could change if Michael Jordan sells enough of his interest in the team that there’s a new primary governor.

Rockets’ Stephen Silas Uncertain If He’ll Be Retained

Stephen Silas said he’s proud of the job he’s done with the Rockets, even though there’s heavy speculation he may not retained for next season, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Silas was hired with a four-year contract but this is the last season that the contract is guaranteed. The club holds a team option for 2023/24 and could be in the market for a new voice. The rebuilding Rockets had the league’s second-worst record at 19-60 entering their game against Denver on Tuesday.

“I have not been perfect at all. But I am proud of the job that I’ve done,” Silas said. “I have a three-year contract, and this is the last home game of my three years. So whatever happens, happens after this. But I can’t be anything but proud.”

The Rockets are headed to the next stage of the rebuild, and it could be accelerated with some lottery luck if they land the top pick. It’s uncertain whether Silas will get a chance to be a part of it. He has not spoken with GM Rafael Stone or team owner Tilman Fertitta about his future.

Whichever way it shakes out, Silas is happy for the experience.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Silas said. “I learned a lot about coaching in the NBA. I’ve learned a lot about dealing with adversity. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to coach this team. I’m grateful to have the Rockets’ logo on my chest. I’m just grateful.”

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mavericks, Doncic, Silas

Ja Morant watched Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. raise their play to another level during his suspension, but the Grizzlies still need Morant to take over games in clutch time, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Cole notes that when Morant returned to the team, he talked to coach Taylor Jenkins about how he could alter his game so he wouldn’t take anything away from Bane and Jackson.

Morant is averaging 22.5 points and 7.3 assists since he resumed playing while shooting 43% from the floor and 20% from three-point range. Cole points out that all those numbers are below Morant’s averages for the season and observes that his tendency to overdribble may come from trying to figure out his new role in the offense.

“For me, it’s getting used to pretty much not being the main option,” Morant said. “Just finding my spots. We got Jaren and Des who have took over that role for us. For me, just getting them the ball and then when I get my chance, just take it.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks‘ postseason hopes are in jeopardy after Sunday’s loss in Atlanta wrapped up a 1-4 road trip, notes Eddie Sefko of At 37-42, Dallas is a game behind the 10th-place Thunder and will need some help to reach the play-in tournament. “We know the situation we’re in,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We’re playing catch-up. And we got to find a way to win. Right now, we’re coming up short. We need to win games and unfortunately we’re not winning right now.”
  • The Mavericks may have larger concerns in the offseason because their franchise player, Luka Doncic, appears so “despondent,” Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated says in a podcast with Chris Mannix (video link). Doncic hasn’t jelled with Kyrie Irving since he was acquired in February, and Dallas faces the unpleasant choice of giving Irving a huge contract in free agency or having Doncic play next season with a below-average roster.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic addresses the Rockets‘ coaching situation, suggesting it’s not certain that Stephen Silas will be replaced after the season ends. He says it’s possible Silas will be brought back for another year with more veterans on the roster, although the front office will explore other options such as Ime Udoka, Frank Vogel or Nick Nurse if he becomes available.