Sam Presti

Northwest Notes: Brown, Grand Rapids Gold, Wolves, Presti

Versatile role player Bruce Brown is getting comfortable ahead of his first season with the Nuggets, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. The swingman signed a two-year, $13.2MM deal with Denver as a free agent this summer.

“[Knowing my role] was huge, because you don’t want to go to a team where it just won’t work, right?” Brown told Fuller. “So I knew coming to Denver — the way they play, it’s a lot of cuts, slips [and] corner threes. And then, they got a lot of guys who know how to play the game of basketball, so the game would be a lot easier.”

Brown hopes to thrive alongside 2021 and 2022 MVP Nikola Jokic, one of the game’s best passers.

“I feel like I’m one of the best cutters in the league,” Brown said. “So I can find open spots. make the game easier for him, knock down corner threes [and] just take some pressure off.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The assistant coaches under newly-named Grand Rapids Gold head coach Andre Miller have been announced, per a Nuggets press statement. Denver’s G League affiliate has upgraded Nate Babcock, an assistant coach under Jason Terry in 2021/22, to the role of associate head coach. The team is also adding two new assistants, Jeff Trepagnier and James Fraschilla, to its bench.
  • In a new Timberwolves reader mailbag, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic discusses Minnesota’s jumbo-sized All-Star frontcourt tandem of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, the health of Anthony Edwards‘s knee, head coach Chris Finch, and more.
  • Head of basketball operations Sam Presti addressed a variety of hot Thunder topics during a preseason press conference on Thursday, writes Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. Presti spoke about the timeline for star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as he recovers from a left MCL sprain, the team’s decision to sign swingman Luguentz Dort to a lucrative contract extension this summer, his thoughts on draft-and-stash guard Vasilije Micic, and more.

Chet Holmgren Injury Notes: Surgery, Details, More

After announcing that big man Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2022 draft, will miss his entire rookie season after sustaining a right foot injury, Thunder general manager Sam Presti held an impromptu media session (video link) to provide more details and insight on the situation, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (subscriber link).

The 20-year-old will undergo surgery in the “coming weeks,” said Presti, adding that Holmgren is expected to make a full recovery by the start of 2023/24. The GM said the long-term outlook is “very positive,” described the injury as bad luck, and added that Holmgren suffered a “rupture of the tendon” and “not a fracture,” according to Mussatto.

Presti also dismissed a question asking whether Holmgren’s thin frame might have been a factor in the injury.

I understand there’s a lot of first-level thinking going on out there,” Presti said. “We can’t really control that. It’s a figment of the alternate reality that is the internet. But that’s not where reality resides. There are opinions and there are facts, and we are dealing with the facts.”

While the injury took place during a Seattle pro-am that was later called off due to unsafe (slippery) court conditions, Presti doesn’t believe that led to the incident.

I don’t think the condensation on the floor was a factor,” Presti said, per Mussatto. “Obviously this happened pretty early, and I don’t believe that issue came up until later.”

Presti said Holmgren will work with longtime former Thunder veteran Nick Collison during the recovery process, Mussatto notes. Like Holmgren, Collison also missed his entire rookie season with an injury. He now works in the team’s front office.

Here are a few more notes regarding the unfortunate news:

  • Because the pro-am league, called “The CrawsOver” in honor of founder Jamal Crawford, is on the list of sanctioned events by the NBA, Holmgren’s future earnings will not be impacted, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Thunder will receive an insurance reimbursement worth 80% of Holmgren’s per-game salary after he misses 41 games, for a total of $4MM, Marks relays in a separate tweet.
  • The injury shouldn’t be an indictment on NBA players who participate in pro-am leagues, argues Law Murray of The Athletic. The events are free and take place in more intimate venues, which allows players to connect to fans in local communities, and they’ve been going on for decades without an issue, Murray writes. The fact that the injury took place at a pro-am league was just a random occurrence that shouldn’t “validate the concerns” of the minority who think players should only play in NBA games, says Murray.
  • Presti agrees with Murray’s assessment that it was a one-off incident, according to Mussatto. “Players are going to play in these (pro-ams),” Presti said, “because the NBA is saying that they are okay to play in. The other thing is, guys are playing all over the place all the time everywhere. If you have players that love to play, they are going to play basketball. Every time you step on a basketball court, something like this could happen. It could happen in a game. It could happen in a practice. It could happen in a scrimmage.”

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Presti, Nuggets, Ingles

Players who spent time with the Thunder this season will receive bonus checks because the team’s total salary is so low, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The current league-wide salary cap is $112.4MM and the minimum salary floor is 90% of the cap, which is roughly $101.2MM. Oklahoma City’s total salary was about $79MM, and the remaining $22MM will be distributed to the players.

The Players Association will vote on how the money will be divvied up, but Mussatto says players who were on the roster for at least 41 games are likely to receive full shares, while others will get half or quarter shares. The final determination is kept private.

“We lay a lot out on the floor and we work hard all year,” Luguentz Dort said, “and we’ve got to thank the organization for doing that for us, just all the players.”

General manager Sam Presti considered taking on extra salary at the trade deadline in exchange for draft assets, but ultimately decided to hold onto the team’s cap space.

“When we were sitting there at the deadline, we just didn’t like anything that was being thrown at us to use that space compared to the opportunity to roll it over to the draft,” Presti said. “Now, it doesn’t roll over to July 1, but we will have that room at the draft. I would put the odds of using that room pretty low. But I’d still rather have those odds than the things that were being presented to us (at the trade deadline).”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Presti is a strong supporter of an in-season tournament, Mussatto adds in a separate story. The proposal didn’t have enough support to receive an official vote last year, but it’s likely the Thunder would have voted yes. “I think it’s very future-oriented,” Presti said, “and it takes courage to put something out there that is going to probably be maligned a little bit, maybe won’t get the immediate love, but they’re thinking bigger picture.”
  • The Nuggets only got one playoff victory, but they consider this season a success because of all they had to overcome, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In addition to playing almost the entire season without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver was missing PJ Dozier, who suffered an ACL tear in November. “I say we beat adversity a lot of the times,” Monte Morris said. “Without Mike and Jamal, two great players, we still found ways in tough, hostile situations to win. That shows the character and how good we can be.”
  • Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian examines whether Joe Ingles will have any value to the Trail Blazers beyond his expiring contract. The 34-year-old had a torn ACL when Portland traded for him in February, and he may not be ready to return until midway through next season.

Thunder Notes: Dort, Bazley, Giddey, Salary Cap, Draft

The Thunder are interested in reaching contract extension agreements with Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley but only if the price is right, GM Sam Presti told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto and other media members on Monday.

“They’re both great guys,” Presti said. “I want to hear what they’re thinking, and I need them to understand we have to also balance the interest of the team as well.”

Presti indicated extension talks with Dort haven’t begun, Mussatto tweets.

“We’ll definitely have a conversation on that,” Presti said. “I don’t know when those conversations will pick up. We’ll have some different options. I don’t want to get into all of them.”

Here are some other highlights from Presti’s annual end-of-season press conference, via Mussatto:

  • Dort (shoulder), Bazley (knee) and Josh Giddey (hip), among others, didn’t finish the season due to injuries but Presti expects everyone on the roster to be ready for training camp.
  • The Thunder will play in two summer leagues, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski will play in Salt Lake City.
  • The Thunder have only $54MM on the books for the 2023/24 season and will continue efforts to keep their salary sheet clean leading up to a new CBA in the summer of 2023.
  • If they’re not playing meaningful games as next season progresses, the Thunder plan to once again go into development mode as the season winds down. “We’re not just trying to figure out how to win two more games next year,” Presti said. “We could do that, but that solution doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best long-term solution for the team.”
  • There’s a slim chance the Thunder could hold onto all four picks it currently possesses in the draft. “One thing I don’t think has been explored enough in the NBA is just drafting everybody and then figuring it out,” Presti said.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Murray, Forrest, Gobert, Mitchell, Presti

Aaron Gordon doesn’t want Jamal Murray to play until the Nuggets’ star guard is completely healthy, the forward told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Murray has been rehabbing all season from the ACL injury he suffered last spring. “I told him to take his time,” Gordon said. “You don’t want to rush this. This isn’t something to rush coming off of injury, especially coming back in such a high-level game, as a playoffs.”

We’ve got more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz guard Trent Forrest has been diagnosed with a left mid-foot ligament sprain after undergoing an MRI on Thursday, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune (Twitter link). Forrest, who played 12 minutes against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, will be reevaluated in a week. He’s appeared in 60 games this season, averaging 3.3 PPG in 12.8 MPG.
  • While many people consider the Defensive Player of the Year race to be wide open, former winner Rudy Gobert believes he should be a lock. In an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews on NBA Today, the Jazz center said, “If anybody else not named Rudy Gobert was doing what I do this year and having the impact that I have this year, they would be the frontrunner and it would be clear. … Why should I be penalized for being consistent year after year?”
  • The Jazz are headed for a roster shakeup, with a breakup of the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell duo almost an inevitability, John Wilmes of RealGM opines. Though the Jazz could win 50 games, there remains a lot of acrimony between the stars of the team.
  • The stash of draft picks Thunder GM Sam Presti has accumulated is more quantity than quality, according to Keith Smith in a Spotrac story. Packaging those picks in trades won’t be as easy as it sounds, unless Presti is willing to move some of the young players they’ve already drafted and developed, says Smith.

LeBron Clears Air, Wants To Stay With Lakers For “As Long As I Can Play”

LeBron James reiterated his desire to finish out his career with the Lakers and said he doesn’t “push the buttons” when it comes to personnel decisions, as he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and other media members after the team’s loss to the Clippers on Friday night.

James is under contract for one more season and will be eligible to sign a two-year extension this summer.

“This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” James said. “I see myself being with the Purple and Gold as long as I can play.”

James raised a lot of eyebrows with his comments during All-Star weekend that he wouldn’t close the door on a possible return to Cleveland. He also stirred the pot by heaping praise on Thunder general manager Sam Presti for his ability to identify talent.

James also expressed his desire in an interview with The Athletic to eventually play with his 17-year-old son, Bronny. However, James said Friday he hopes that will occur in L.A.

“I also have a goal that, if it’s possible — I don’t even know if it’s possible — that if I can play with my son, I would love to do that,” he said. “Is that, like, something that any man shouldn’t want that in life? That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”

Bronny would not be eligible to play in the NBA until the 2024/25 season.

In terms of his relationship with the front office, James said his comments about Presti were not a potshot toward GM Rob Pelinka.

“If I comment [on] or compliment the GM that’s in OKC — I really believe he’s done a phenomenal job. And you guys spin that to me saying that Rob is not doing a great job,” James said.

Super-agent Rich Paul, whose agency represents James and Anthony Davis, met with Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss on Tuesday in what could be characterized as a clear-the-air session.

Pelinka consults his superstars regarding potential moves, including the Russell Westbrook trade with Washington that contributed significantly to the Lakers’ poor season. There were also reports James and Davis were unhappy the front office stood pat at the trade deadline.

James says he doesn’t have final say on trades.

“I don’t push the buttons,” James said. “They ask for my opinion, and I voice my opinion and what I believe. But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for, and that’s what our leadership group is for.”

He also feels the influence that he and his representative have within the franchise sparks jealousy.

“I mean, I think a lot of people are, to be honest, just jealous of the relationship that Rich has with the front office and with this team and with the relationship that I have, that I’ve grown over the last four years. I mean, that’s what I think it boils down to,” he said.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Presti, LeBron, Jazz, Jokic

Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns staked his claim of being the greatest shooting big man ever by winning the three-point contest on Saturday, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

Towns defeated several guards and wings to win the contest, including Trae Young, Zach LaVine and Patty Mills. He’s averaging 24.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game this season, shooting 41% from three-point range. Prior to this season, he’s shot above 40% from deep in three of his six campaigns.

“I remember everyone told me to do the same way. ‘Have your back to the basket. Why is Karl shooting 3s? There’s no reason for him shooting 3s. We’re experts. We know better than you,'” Towns said. “Me and my dad said screw them. We’re going to do it our way.”

Here are some other notes from Northwest:

  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti recently received praise from LeBron James, who called him the MVP of Oklahoma City’s franchise, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “The MVP over there is Sam Presti. He’s the MVP,” James said when asked about Josh Giddey and the Thunder. “I mean, Josh Giddey is great. But Sam Presti, I don’t understand this guy’s eye for talent. He drafted [Kevin Durant], Russ [Westbrook]Jeff GreenSerge IbakaReggie Jackson, Josh Giddey and the list goes on and on and on. This guy is pretty damn good.”
  • The Jazz will have many questions to answer after the All-Star break, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. Utah is 36-22 on the season, dropping a 106-101 road game to the Lakers before the break. “Come back ready to go,” Donovan Mitchell said on what needs to happen. “We have no choice. It’s not like we can say anything else. We have no choice but to be ready.”
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post explores the story of how Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic once hated a Denver assistant coach. Jokic and the coach, Ogi Stojakovic, are now great friends. “He’s like a big brother, like a mentor, father, he’s like a really good friend,” Jokic said of Stojakovic. “He’s really everything. … How much he helps me on the court, he helps me off the court just to get out of the basketball … We hang out, for real. When we have a day off, my family is always with his family.”

Celtics Notes: Brown, Udoka, Schröder, Hernangomez

The Celtics dealt with lots of turmoil last season: injuries, a short turnaround from the Orlando bubble, and COVID-19 outbreaks affecting several players, including star Jayson Tatum. The team is hoping to turn the page entering training camp, and Jaylen Brown appears optimistic, particularly about new head coach Ime Udoka.

“I’m completely bought in,” Brown said of Udoka. “I’m looking forward to this season and being an extension of him on the court.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens, the former head coach, says that Brown has been cleared by the team’s doctors after recovering from wrist surgery, and will be a full participant in practice, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Udoka participated in media day virtually through Zoom, instead of in person, because the first-year head coach is in the last day of quarantine after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19, per ESPN News Services. Udoka is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, according to team spokesperson Christian Megliola. He’s expected to join the team tomorrow for the start of training camp.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Dennis Schröder mentioned yesterday that Tatum and Brown both called to recruit him to the Celtics, but they weren’t the only ones. He told reporters today that Stevens, Udoka, and former Hawks teammate Al Horford called him as well, adding, “I know Al Horford will have the locker room under control.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).
  • Schröder also consulted with Thunder general manager Sam Presti prior to signing with Boston, and Presti endorsed the Celtics organization, per Smith (Twitter link).
  • Juan Hernangomez, who dislocated his left shoulder over the summer in an exhibition game prior to the Olympics, says the shoulder is 100 percent now, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jazz, D’Antoni, Wolves, Bolmaro, Walker

The Nuggets‘ season was over long before they expected it to be, especially given the stellar play of star center Nikola Jokic, which was rewarded with an MVP award. But a devastating knee injury to point guard Jamal Murray, the team’s leading scorer in last year’s playoffs, in addition to some disappointing play from key contributors, left the team reeling after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Suns.

Now, there are questions that must be answered, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. One area of focus will be shoring up the Nuggets’ frontcourt, as Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green and JaVale McGee are all free agents. Singer also touches on how despite a disappointing end to his second year, Michael Porter Jr. is still very much a player worth keeping faith in, as he enters the first healthy offseason of his career.

Singer, along with Mark Kiszla and Matt Schubert of The Denver Post also answered a few of the most pressing questions facing the Nuggets, such as Aaron Gordon‘s future after his struggles stepping into a scoring role in the second round, potential areas of improvement for head coach Mike Malone, and Austin Rivers‘ impending free agency.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Like Denver, the Jazz‘s season also ended in ignominious fashion after they surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Clippers to lose in six games, culminating in a blown 25-point lead in Game Six. Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at where the Jazz can go from here. One area of focus will be finding another forward along with Royce O’Neale who can take the tough defensive matchups on the wing. There’s also the question of Mike Conley‘s free agency to consider, and the related question of whether the Jazz want to try to turn Donovan Mitchell into their full-time point guard. The roster isn’t far away, Jones says, but it still needs some work if Utah is to have any hope of taking the next step towards being a bona-fide contender.
  • Mike D’Antoni is getting a second interview with the Trail Blazers sometime this week, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Becky Hammon has already met with Blazers ownership for her second interview, and Chauncey Billups is set to do the same later in the week. Those three appear to be the finalists for the head coach job in Portland, though it’s possible other top candidates haven’t been reported yet.
  • The Timberwolves could be an interesting landing spot for Ben Simmons if the Sixers decide to trade him, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. With an elite-shooting big man in Karl-Anthony Towns and another high-level shot creator in last year’s number one pick Anthony Edwards, Simmons could focus on defense and passing, the way he has always wanted to. The question comes down to cost. The Wolves have D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, either of whom could hold some interest to the Sixers, but Sixers GM Daryl Morey may want to hold out for more.
  • The Timberwolves aren’t crying over lost picks, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “We prepared accordingly,” GM Gersson Rosas said pre-draft lottery, about the possibility of losing their first-round draft pick. “We drafted a player last year that has the opportunity to come this season in case there wasn’t a pick.” That’s a reference to Leandro Bolmaro, a very interesting point guard prospect recently named “Most Spectacular Player” of the Spanish league. Rosas also emphasized the added financial flexibility from not having to pay a high-end rookie-scale contract. “That’ll allow us to be more aggressive in terms of trades and free agency based on our financial position,” Rosas said.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti hasn’t had a chance to meet with new addition Kemba Walker yet, as Walker has been out of the country, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Presti did say that he liked Walker’s fit with star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has grown used to playing with multiple lead guards — he spent much of the 2019/20 season playing alongside Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder.

Celtics Notes: Stevens, Fields, Presti, Ainge, Holtmann

The Celtics promoted Brad Stevens from head coach to president of basketball operations today, but they never considered having him handle both roles, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Stevens said he would have been happy to continue coaching if Danny Ainge was still running the front office, but he began considering the move in conversations with owner Wyc Grousbeck when Ainge started talking about retirement.

Grousbeck said he considers coaching and personnel decisions to be “two separate jobs,” and Bontemps adds that neither Stevens nor management pushed for a dual role. The idea of having a head coach with a prominent voice in front office decisions has become less common across the league in recent years.

“I think it’s too much (to do both jobs),” Stevens said. “All of my intention, energy, focus is doing this job well, and hiring a great coach and trusting they will do their job well. I think that everyone will benefit from that approach. To me, that would have been a lot to be able to do both of those things. I know some people have done it, some people have done it really well, but that would have been a great challenge.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Hawks assistant general manager Landry Fields has been mentioned as a candidate to become GM of the Celtics, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link). Bondy notes that Fields could complement Stevens because of his history in dealing with agent and player relationships.
  • Before turning to Stevens, the Celtics thought about trying to land long-time Thunder general manager Sam Presti, sources confirmed to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. A Massachusetts native, Presti has been with the organization since 2007 when it was still in Seattle. Several other internal candidates were considered, according to O’Connor, who adds that there have been rumors for months that Ainge might be leaving, with speculation that he would be interested in working for Utah, where much of his family lives, or possibly Portland.
  • Ainge’s decision to step down has been in the works for a couple of months, tweets Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Sources tell Murphy that Ainge informed ownership of his intentions shortly after the March 25 trade deadline.
  • Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann is a strong “sleeper” candidate as the Celtics begin their search for a new head coach, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Like Stevens, Holtmann is a former Butler coach and has enjoyed success in the college ranks. Hollinger mentions Dayton’s Anthony Grant as another under-the-radar possibility.