Steve Hetzel

Western Notes: J. Jackson, Gasol, Blazers, Kings, Christie

A total of 56 free agents reached contract agreements with teams around the NBA on Monday, but not a single one of those players is signing with the Grizzlies. That’s by design though, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who writes that Memphis’ plan was always to have a quiet free agent period and focus on negotiating a potential contract extension with Jaren Jackson Jr.

One of 24 players eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, Jackson won’t get a maximum-salary deal like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman has suggested that the former fourth overall pick remains very much in the franchise’s long-term plans.

“I think we’re going to be our best selves over time with Jaren,” Kleiman said after the draft, per Barnes. “Spacing the floor, attacking, creating, defensively taking advantage of the versatility he brings to the table.”

Here’s more from around the West as we wait for day two of free agency to start heating up:

  • When Marc Gasol signed a two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Lakers last summer, there was some speculation that he might decide to retire after the 2020/21 season. That’s not his plan though. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets, Gasol told reporters following Spain’s elimination from the Olympics on Tuesday that he intends to continue his NBA career and finish his contract with L.A.
  • The Trail Blazers formally announced Chauncey Billups‘ coaching staff in a press release on Monday, confirming that previously-reported assistant coaching hires such as Scott Brooks, Roy Rogers, Steve Hetzel, and Edniesha Curry are now official. Former Long Island Nets assistant Milt Palacio will also be part of Billups’ staff, according to the team.
  • Doug Christie is moving from the broadcast booth to the sidelines, as the Kings officially announced the former NBA player and veteran TV analyst will be joining Luke Walton‘s staff as an assistant coach. Christie, who played for Sacramento from 2000-05, said in a statement that coaching for the Kings has been a “dream of mine.”

Western Notes: Pelinka, Hetzel, Finley, Brunson, Rockets

Mental toughness is one of the things the Lakers focus on regarding draft prospects, Jovan Buha of the Los Angeles Times writes. They have devised a 90-second shooting drill, among others, to help determine how well players can perform under pressure.

“It’s really a test of, ‘OK, it’s one thing to walk in the gym fresh and move and shoot and be effective. But how are you playing basketball once you’re exhausted, once you’re past your limits?’” president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said. “Because that’s the fourth quarter. That’s when the game’s on the line. Can you perform at a high level when you’ve spent everything you have? And that’s the mentality that we know Kobe (Bryant) always played with. And so we have drills that test that fortitude.”

The Lakers hold the No. 22 pick, though they might trade it to help improve the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Buha adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Steve Hetzel is expected to join Chauncey Billups’ Trail Blazers’ staff, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report tweets. Hetzel had been on the Magic’s staff under former head coach Steve Clifford.
  • Michael Finley is finalizing a new contract with the Mavericks which will give him a larger role in their front office as assistant GM and VP of player personnel under new president of basketball operations Nico Harrison, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Finley had been Dallas’ VP of basketball operations for the past six seasons.
  • Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, who could become an unrestricted free agent next summer, might be part of any major trade the team makes in the coming days, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes. Brunson, whose $1.82MM salary must be guaranteed on August 1st, is a valuable asset the Mavs could use to reel in a bigger target, Townsend notes.
  • The Rockets have forged a partnership with Credit Karma Money as their new uniform patch sponsor, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets played last season without a uniform patch sponsor after the agreement with ROKiT cell phones ended before the 2020 summer restart.

Penny Hardaway Emerges As Serious Candidate For Magic Job

The Magic interviewed University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway for their head coaching position, with Hardaway now emerging as a serious candidate for the job, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

Hardaway, who played six seasons with Orlando from 1993-99, has coached at the University of Memphis for the past three years. He’s considered to be one of the top guards in Magic history, making the All-Star team four times during his tenure with the franchise.

The Magic and coach Steve Clifford parted ways earlier this month after finishing the season 21-51 — that was the third-worst record in the league. The team has missed the playoffs in seven of its last 10 seasons and is currently in a rebuilding phase.

Along with Hardaway, Orlando has requested to interview Suns assistant Willie Green and Bucks assistant Charles Lee, according to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins.

The team has already interviewed Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and is expected to interview current assistants Tyrone Corbin, Pat Delany and Steve Hetzel, along with Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., says Charania. In addition, Marc Stein of The New York Times also reported (via Twitter) that Orlando requested to interview Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley.

Cavaliers Interview More Coaching Candidates

Members of the Cavaliers‘ front office are meeting with four candidates for their head coaching vacancy today in Denver, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

We told you earlier that Magic assistant coach Steve Hetzel had an interview, but GM Koby Altman and his staff also talked to Nuggets assistants Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr.

Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool will interview tonight, tweets Chris Fedor of, while fellow Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts had a scheduling conflict and will hold his interview sometime after tomorrow’s Game 7. That will wrap up the first round of the coaching search, Fedor adds (Twitter link).

Cleveland has conducted the most wide-ranging interview process among the teams looking for a head coach. Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina, former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley have all interviewed for the job.

Magic Assistant Hetzel Interviews For Cavs’ Job

Magic assistant Steve Hetzel interviewed for the Cavaliers coaching position on Saturday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Hetzel has worked under Steve Clifford in both Charlotte and Orlando, but has familiarity with Cleveland. He served as the team’s video coordinator and later as its G League head coach during the 2013/14 season.

Hetzel also worked four seasons as a player development coach for the Pistons and one season as an assistant video coordinator for the Spurs.

The Cavaliers have also interviewed Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley as well as another Spurs assistant, Ettore Messina. They parted ways with Larry Drew after the season.

Larry Drew Unlikely To Coach Cavs Long-Term

The Cavaliers have begun searching for a permanent head coach for 2019/20 and beyond, and Larry Drew isn’t believed to be a serious candidate, according to a report from Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. While Drew has served as Cleveland’s interim coach since Tyronn Lue‘s dismissal earlier this season, he’s unsure he’d want to return next season and doesn’t appear likely to be asked, per Vardon and Lloyd.

“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” said Drew, who has dealt with a constant stream of injuries since Lue’s ouster, guiding the Cavs to a 9-34 record.

According to Vardon and Lloyd, the Cavaliers will likely seek a first-time NBA head coach who has experience developing players and/or coaching in the G League. The club hasn’t yet begun reaching out to candidates or their agents, since the search is still in its infancy. However, The Athletic duo identifies six candidates who have ties to the Cavs or GM Koby Altman and could be fits. Those six candidates are:

  • Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez
  • Hornets assistant Steve Hetzel
  • Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin
  • Hawks assistant Chris Jent
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen

It’s not entirely clear whether Vardon and Lloyd are just speculating based on the criteria outlined by the Cavs and Altman’s history with those coaches, or if they have inside info on the club’s wish list. Either way, it seems safe to assume that at least a few of those assistants will receive consideration from Cleveland.

For now, Drew is still running the show and the 60-year-old coach admits that he’s happy Lue was let go early in the season — not because he wanted to supplant Lue, but because he believes the Cavs’ struggles this year would have been hard on the team’s former head coach, who battled stress and health issues last season.

“I wouldn’t want to see him go through this,” Drew said. “I wouldn’t want him to go through it from a physical and mental standpoint after some of the things that he went through. He deserves better after having won a championship. He deserves much, much better.”

When the Cavs initially replaced Lue with Drew, he resisted taking on the title of interim head coach until the team gave him a raise and a small financial guarantee for next season. Several months later, he still doesn’t sound like someone who wanted the job to begin with, as Vardon and Lloyd relay.

“I wasn’t looking to do this. I was not looking to do this at all,” Drew said. “But it happened. Ain’t a whole lot you can do about it.”

Southeast Notes: Chalmers, Magic, Foster, Hawks

Free agents and former Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers have been working out together in Miami, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel reports. They were Miami’s starting backcourt during its championship runs in 2012 and 2013. Wade finished last season with the Heat, while Chalmers played for the Grizzlies. They have been working out at DBC Fitness, a Miami gym run by David Alexander, one of LeBron James trainers, Winderman notes.

In other news around the Southeast Division:

  • New Magic coach Steve Clifford is bringing in two of his former Hornets assistants in Pat Delany and Steve Hetzel, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Both worked under Clifford the past four seasons. New Knicks coach David Fizdale was interested in bringing on Delany to his staff, Stein adds.
  • Greg Foster will join the staff of new Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. Foster had been an assistant with the Bucks since 2014.
  • Georgia forward Yante Maten is among the draft prospects the Hawks will work out on Tuesday, according to a team release. Elijah Stewart (USC), Isaiah Wilkins (Virginia), Melvin Frazier (Tulane), Elijah Brown (Oregon) and Trevon Bluiett (Xavier) are also scheduled to visit.

Southeast Notes: Zeller, Vonleh, Anderson, Wiz

Today’s news that Josh McRoberts has opted out of his contract, while widely expected, promises to make a busy offseason in Charlotte even busier. The Hornets have two first round picks and, as GM Rich Cho tells Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte observer, there are plenty of teams looking to make moves heading into next Thursday’s talent-rich draft (Twitter links).

Here are some additional updates from the Southeast division:

  • Bonnell also tweets that Cho is still very much committed to the development of Cody Zeller, who the Hornets took fourth overall in last summer’s draft. Should Charlotte select a power forward next Thursday, it would not be an indictment of Zeller according to Bonnell.
  • The Hornets were supposed to host one of the draft’s premier bigs today in Noah Vonleh, but Adam Zagoria of SNY tweets that the Indiana product pulled out of the workout. Vonleh is almost certain to be off the board by the time Charlotte is on the clock at No. 9.
  • Kyle Anderson will work out for the Hawks on Monday, reports Zagoria. It will be Anderson’s second workout in Atlanta. Zagoria reported a few weeks back that the Hawks had been trying to get the intriguing UCLA product back in town. Atlanta picks 15th.
  • The Wizards will work out Davion Berry, Andre Dawkins, Cory Jefferson, Shawn Jones, Wally Judge and James McAdoo on Thursday, the team announced today.
  • The Hornets officially announced via a team release that they have added Steve Hetzel as an assistant coach. Hetzel coached the Canton Charge of the D-League this season.

And-Ones: Nash, T’Wolves, Knicks, Hornets

Steve Nash tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles that he doesn’t need to have any input on the Lakers’ head coaching search. “I’m completely happy to have a conversation…but I’m also fine having nothing to do with it.”

The former MVP also talked about how he got the sense that Mike D’Antoni wasn’t going to return for 2014/15. “(2013/14) wasn’t an enjoyable year for him. I think he could foresee that next year wasn’t going to be any more enjoyable from his standpoint, so I’m happy for him that he was able to walk away…towards the end of the season (I) could sense that he felt that he really didn’t want to do it next year…So, if that’s his wish, you want the best for him.”

Nash does, however, think that his former coach could possibly find another opportunity to coach again elsewhere soon. “I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he ended up with another job in the short term.”

Here are a few more miscellaneous links to pass along tonight:

  • Timberwolves GM Milt Newton says that the team isn’t in any rush to find a head coach, but conceded that they do have more of a timetable on possible trade talks about Kevin Love, reports Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press. Newton says he hasn’t spoken with Love since the season ended, but added that “maybe” there was more recent contact between Love and team president of basketball operations Flip Saunders.
  • The Knicks plan to purchase a mid-to-late second round pick from the upcoming draft, a source tells Marc Berman of the New York Post.
  • The Hornets are willing to part with their draft picks if the right deal comes along, reports Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer, who also writes that the team’s biggest needs are perimeter shooting and finding a backup big man for Al Jefferson.
  • Charlotte plans to add Steve Hetzel as an assistant coach on Steve Clifford’s staff, according to an earlier tweet by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Hetzel has been serving as head coach of the Canton Charge of the NBDL.
  • Larry Bird will have to think hard about matching any offer that Pacers swingman Lance Stephenson gets in upcoming free agency, senses Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link).

Cavs Notes: D-League, Deng

Steve Hetzel, coach of the Cavs D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, gives Dakota Schmidt of Ridiculous Upside some insight as to how the developmental process works for Cleveland: “We all talk and communicate about when they’ll be sent down, their overall expectations and how they’ll be able to be coached. They allow me to coach these guys as if they’re my players. It’s a good relationship in the sense that we give constant feedback to each other on when we’re going to have those players and what they want the players to work on in-game. It’s a real benefit to be directly affiliated with the Cavs because it’s a struggle for teams who don’t have a direct NBA affiliation.”
Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • In the same interview, Hetzel doesn’t rule out the possibility of an Anthony Bennett assignment, telling Schmidt, “That’s completely up to Coach [Mike] Brown and the Cavs organization. If they want to send him down, we’d be open arms. Right now Bennett is getting time with Cleveland and if you’re getting minutes in the NBA, then that’s the best experience that you can get. Whether he’s flourishing or struggling, he’ll improve with the playing time that he gets. If that time comes, we’ll cross that bridge as it happens.” Bennett’s play has finally picked up in recent days, after his historically poor play for a number one pick had some calling for him to get some time in the D-League.
  • Rival executives believe new Cavs GM David Griffin‘s best option going forward would be trading recently acquired Luol Deng and trying to land a premium first-round pick in this year’s draft, per Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Since it appears unlikely that Deng will stay with Cleveland beyond this season, Kennedy thinks buyers would see value in obtaining him now, while he still has his Bird Rights, to have a leg up on signing him to a long-term contract extension. Deng can be traded a second time this season with some limitations: he cannot be dealt back to the Bulls and he cannot be traded away along with any other Cavs players.
  • The Cavs have recalled rookie Sergey Karasev from the D-League, per Karasev has been in the D-League since being assigned late last month, and has totaled 17 games in his time with the Cavs.