Spurs Rumors

D’Antoni Interviewing With Blazers On Monday; Billups, Hammon To Follow

The Trail Blazers are interviewing Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni on Monday for their open head coaching position, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, Portland also has interviews lined up early this week with Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. All three names were previously identified as candidates to replace Terry Stotts in Portland.

A previous report stated that D’Antoni has “serious interest” in coaching the Blazers, but that it wasn’t clear whether Portland reciprocated that interest. The team appears intrigued enough by D’Antoni to give him an interview, though head of basketball operations Neil Olshey has indicated that the search will be fairly expansive, with upwards of 20-to-25 candidates receiving consideration. As such, we shouldn’t read too much into a single meeting.

Billups has previously been cited as a potential frontrunner for the Blazers’ vacancy. He also received a public endorsement from star point guard Damian Lillard, who is expected to have a say in the team’s hire.

Becky Hammon To Interview For Trail Blazers’ Head Coaching Job

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is among the candidates who will be interviewed for the Trail Blazers‘ head coaching vacancy, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Sources tell Charania that other names on Portland’s list include Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, Spurs vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry and South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.

Either Hammon or Staley would make history by becoming the NBA’s first-ever female head coach. Hammon will also interview for the head coaching job with the Magic, Charania adds.

Hammon, 44, has been on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio since 2014. She became the first woman to serve as a head coach in the Summer League in 2015 and was the first female on an All-Star Game coaching staff in 2016.

Staley, 51, is a member of both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She has coached the South Carolina women’s team since 2008 and has been coach of the USA national women’s team since 2017.

A report this week identified Billups and D’Antoni as candidates in Portland, with Billups considered to be the front-runner. He is also rumored to be in contention for the Celtics’ coaching vacancy.

After retiring from the NBA, Barry spent several years as a broadcaster before joining the Spurs in a front-office role in 2018. He has no previous coaching experience.

Kelly Oubre’s Prospective Suitors Include Heat, Spurs

The Heat and Spurs have interest in signing unrestricted free agent Warriors swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. this summer, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Goodwill also lists the Knicks among Oubre’s prospective suitors, which aligns with a previous report from Marc Berman of the New York Post stating that there was mutual interest between Oubre and New York.

Oubre signed a two-year, $30MM contract extension while with the Suns in 2019.

In his lone season with Golden State, Oubre showcased his value as a defensive-oriented athletic wing, and could help fill needs for all three clubs mentioned by Goodwill, who predicts that the 25-year-old will be on the move during the 2021 offseason.

Though the 6’7″ wing out of Kansas connected on a middling 31.6% of his long-range looks during the 2020/21 season, there is hope that he can return to something approaching the respectable 35.2% three point shooting mark he enjoyed in ’19/20 with the Suns.

Goodwill notes that comparable non-All-Star wings of a similar age have fetched a respectable annual sum lately, citing salaries ranging from $12MM-$21MM per year.

The Spurs and Heat could both carve out significant cap space this summer, depending on their decisions when it comes to re-signing free agents such as DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills (for San Antonio) and Victor Oladipo, Goran Dragic, and Andre Iguodala (for Miami).

Kemba Walker, Celtics Appear Headed Toward Breakup

Kemba Walker and the Celtics are both looking to end their relationship this summer, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (video link).

Former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge began shopping Walker after the team was eliminated from the playoffs last summer, Mannix states. He says Ainge and the front office were skeptical about Walker’s future after a knee injury he suffered in January 2020 lingered into the summer restart.

According to Mannix, the Celtics talked to “multiple teams” about a deal involving Walker, including a potential swap with the Spurs for LaMarcus Aldridge. The incentive for Boston was that Aldridge, now retired, had an expiring contract, while Walker is owed close to $74MM over the next two seasons.

Walker places a high priority on loyalty, Mannix adds, and was “frustrated” to learn that he was involved in trade talks after choosing the Celtics in free agency in 2019.

The report from Mannix coincides with a story by Farbod Esnaashari of Bleacher Report that claims there’s a “mutual agreement” between Walker and the Celtics to seek an offseason trade. Esnaashari mentions the Knicks and Mavericks as teams with the potential cap flexibility to assimilate Walker’s $36MM salary for next year.

Walker, 31, is a four-time All-Star, but his production has declined during two injury-plagued seasons in Boston. He went from scoring 25.6 PPG in his final year in Charlotte to 20.4 last season and 19.3 this year. He shot 42% from the field and 36% from three-point range, which were his worst numbers in six years.

A sore knee forced him to miss the start of the season, and he didn’t play his first game until mid-January. Walker missed 29 games this season and appeared in just 56 last year.

Spurs Won’t Give Weatherspoon Qualifying Offer

The Spurs won’t extend a qualifying offer to guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. That will make Weatherspoon an unrestricted free agent.

The 2019 second-round selection appeared in 20 games this season, but he only averaged 2.3 PPG in 6.1 MPG. He scored a season-high 13 points against Phoenix on May 15.

The qualifying offer is a modest $1.67MM but the organization has apparently decided Weatherspoon wouldn’t make its roster next season.

Weatherspoon, who played 11 games for the Spurs during his rookie season, was on a two-way contract during his first two seasons in the league. He missed some time this season after being placed under the league’s health and safety protocols.

Celtics Will Start Coaching Search With Internal Interviews

The first step in the Celtics‘ search for a new head coach to replace Brad Stevens will begin with several internal candidates, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Chris Mannix of SI.com suggested as much earlier today.

Boston’s head coaching position opened up this morning when Danny Ainge resigned as president of basketball operations and Stevens was chosen to replace him.

Weiss notes that Stevens’ staff has several strong candidates. Jay Larranaga interviewed for the Hornets’ head coaching spot before James Borrego was hired, and Scott Morrison and Brandon Bailey both coached at the team’s G League affiliate in Maine. Jerome Allen is a former NBA player with college head coaching experience at the University of Pennsylvania, while Jamie Young has been with the team since 2008.

Among external candidates, the most interesting name is Kara Lawson, who would become the first female NBA head coach if she gets the job. Lawson spent a year as an assistant in Boston before leaving in 2020 to become head coach of the women’s team at Duke. Others to watch, sources tell Weiss, include former Celtics players Sam Cassell, currently an assistant with the Sixers, and Chauncey Billups, who is on the Clippers‘ staff.

Weiss also expects interest in former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, Nets assistant Ime Udoka, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee. According to Weiss, another potential outsider is Juwan Howard if he’s willing to leave Michigan.

LaMarcus Aldridge Discusses Health Scare, Decision To Retire

In a wide-ranging interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, LaMarcus Aldridge looked back on his stints with the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Nets, and went into detail on why he abruptly decided to retire as a player this spring following a heart-related health scare.

Aldridge spoke about wishing he had made more of an effort to build a relationship with Damian Lillard when both players were in Portland, and said that joining the Spurs was like being part of a “family.” However, his most eye-opening comments were about the last NBA game he played, on April 10 vs. the Lakers.

Aldridge, who has dealt with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome throughout his career, told Charania that he felt his heart race in an irregular manner on the morning of April 10 and believed it would return to normal once he got out on the court.

“I had a weird game against the Lakers, my heart was just beating weird and out of rhythm. I had irregular rhythm the whole game, and I hadn’t experienced that before,” Aldridge said. “Normally when I get on the court, my case study is that I would go into regular rhythm as I got my heart rate up. It had never been out of rhythm in a game and then it was out of rhythm for the Lakers game and I was just off and couldn’t get no energy. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

“… It was still off after the game, but at like two, three in the morning, it got really, really crazy. My heart was beating really crazy, and that’s when it got really bad for me. From two to five in the morning, I was just trying to evoke some breathing and then around 5:30 or so, I texted the team doctor and I went to the hospital. It was probably the scariest night ever.”

Here are a few more highlights from Aldridge’s conversation with Charania, which is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber:

On making the decision to call it a career following that April 10 health scare:

“It was very tough. I definitely wasn’t ready to hang it up and I still felt like I had more to give to a team and I feel I had a lot to give to the Nets. … Basically, that night being so freaked out — and knowing I have kids, my mom, a lot of people depending on me and a lot of people that I want to see going forward — I just felt like I was blessed by God to play 15 years with this condition, and I didn’t want to push it anymore.”

On informing his teammates of his decision to retire:

“It was tough, man. I talked to Kevin (Durant) right away, I wanted to give him the respect because when I hit the waiver market when I got my buyout, he was the first guy to hit me. So I felt like I wanted to hit him first, because he was owed that. And I think he was more in shock in the beginning because he didn’t really believe or understand what I was saying. And then we talked again. I felt like those guys were really excited to have me. So I didn’t get emotional on the phone, but afterwards I was a little emotional.”

On why he joined the Nets after being bought out by the Spurs:

“I didn’t choose Brooklyn because I was trying to get there and make a super team. I chose them because if you look at what they need, what they needed and what they were trying to do, I fit exactly what they wanted. The only thing they wanted to get better was having a big that could score, and that’s what I do. And they wanted a shooter at the end of the games, but also a big that could guard bigger players. That’s who I am.

“… I know everyone’s gonna say it’s a super team, but I think it’s funny how I was sitting at home in San Antonio because the Spurs were younger, which I totally get. And Blake (Griffin) wasn’t playing for Detroit, because they wanted to go younger. So it was like I was washed up, he was washed up. But then when we get on the same team, the (discussion was) was they were cheating. … It was just funny to me to watch this whole narrative play out.”

On adjusting to no longer playing basketball and not getting a chance to compete for his first title:

“I’ve been depressed, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate through not competing on the floor, learning not to be depressed. I still love basketball. I still feel like I have a lot to give. But even now, I’m still trying to find myself. When you go from doing something you love for so long and you lose it overnight, it’s a shock.”

Scotto’s Latest: Oubre, Bazemore, Wiseman, Ball, Spurs

The Warriors have interest in bringing back free agent wings Kelly Oubre and Kent Bazemore, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. However, it sounds like neither player will be as affordable on his next contract as he was on his previous deal.

Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast alongside Yossi Gozlan, Scotto said he has gotten the sense from a league source that Oubre and his camp believe they can get a long-term contract worth at least $20MM annually, which may be higher than the Warriors are willing to go. As for Bazemore, Scotto didn’t specify an asking price, but said the goal for the veteran forward is to get a multiyear deal — ideally one that covers three years rather than two.

The Warriors have Oubre’s full Bird rights, but only hold Non-Bird rights on Bazemore, so their ability to offer him a raise on his minimum-salary contract will be limited.

Here’s more from Scotto, including another note on the Warriors:

  • Although the Warriors won’t be actively looking to move James Wiseman, they’d be open to listening to inquiries on the big man if an All-Star caliber player is available, a league source tells Scotto.
  • There’s a belief that Lonzo Ball will be able to get around $20MM per year in restricted free agency, though it’s unclear if the Pelicans are prepared to go that high, says Scotto, adding that rumors of the Bulls’ interest in the former No. 2 overall pick seem to “have some legs.”
  • Re-signing RFAs-to-be Ball and Josh Hart would almost certainly take the Pelicans into luxury tax territory, so Scotto expects Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to be names that come up in trade rumors this offseason. Bledsoe will earn $18.1MM in 2021/22, while Adams will make $17.1MM.
  • Scotto says he has heard from an executive or two around the NBA that Spurs assistant Will Hardy is viewed as a legit candidate to be Gregg Popovich‘s eventual replacement as San Antonio’s head coach. Hardy received consideration from multiple teams that sought a head coach in 2020.

14 NBA Players On Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Qualifying Roster

Team Canada has yet to secure a place in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, but the club should have a loaded roster as it looks to lock up a spot in a qualifying tournament next month.

Canada Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 21-player preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifier, and the group includes 14 players who finished the season on NBA contracts. Here’s the full list:

Of the seven players who didn’t play in the NBA this season, one (Bennett) is a former first overall pick, another (Nicholson) was also a first-round selection, and a third (Alexander) has NBA experience. Bell-Haynes has played in the G League, while Doornekamp, Ejim, and Nembhard all have extensive experience representing Canada in past international competitions.

Still, a few noteworthy names are missing from the list. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to participate. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also dealing with an injury, announcing on Instagram that rehabbing the plantar fasciitis in his right foot will prevent him from representing Team Canada.

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is a third notable omission. According to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Boucher is focused on rehabbing a knee sprain and wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy heading into 2021/22. He also has a somewhat uncertain contract situation — his $7MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, though I’d be shocked if he’s not retained.

Even without Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Boucher, Canada Basketball is in position to run out a roster stacked with NBA talent and led by former NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse.

While the final roster will depend in part on which players are available, none of the 21 players on the preliminary are on teams expected to still be alive for the conference finals. However, a club like Powell’s Mavericks or Barrett’s Knicks could surprise.

Team Canada will compete against Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, British Columbia between June 29 and July 4. If the club wins that six-team qualifier, it will be part of the 12-team field in Tokyo and would be a legit contender for a medal.

2021 NBA Draft Tiebreaker Results

The NBA conducted a series of random tiebreakers today to determine the lottery standings and the 2021 draft order. These tiebreakers involved teams that finished the regular season with identical records.

The results are as follows, per Jeremy Woo of SI.com (Twitter link):

  • Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 4) over Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 5)
  • Chicago Bulls (No. 8) over Sacramento Kings (No. 9) over New Orleans Pelicans (No. 10)
    • Note: The Magic will receive the Bulls’ first-round pick if it doesn’t move up into the top four.
  • Charlotte Hornets (No. 11) over San Antonio Spurs (No. 12)
  • New York Knicks (No. 19) over Atlanta Hawks (No. 20)
  • New York Knicks (No. 21) over Los Angeles Lakers (No. 22) over Houston Rockets (No. 23)
    • Note: The Knicks’ pick is courtesy of the Mavericks, while the Rockets’ pick is courtesy of the Trail Blazers.
  • Los Angeles Clippers (No. 25) over Denver Nuggets (No. 26).

Lottery teams that finished tied in the regular standings are granted essentially identical odds to move up into the top four. For instance, the Thunder and Cavaliers will each have an 11.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, while the Bulls, Kings, and Pelicans will have matching 4.5% odds at the top selection.

However, the tiebreaker is still important for lottery teams because it dictates which team(s) will draft first in the event that neither club moves into the top four. For example, the Cavs could theoretically slip as far as No. 9 in the draft now, while the Thunder couldn’t fall below No. 8.

Outside of the lottery, the tiebreaker results simply determine the draft order. That order is subsequently reversed in the second round. For instance, the Clippers and Nuggets will pick at Nos. 25 and 26, respectively in the first round, but in round two, Denver’s pick (traded to the Thunder) will be No. 55, while the Clippers’ pick (traded to Charlotte) will be No. 56.

The Thunder and Knicks are among the big tiebreaker winners. Oklahoma City’s odds of securing a top-six pick improved by virtue of its tiebreaker win over Cleveland. As for the Knicks, they could’ve ended up with the 20th and 23rd overall picks, but will instead draft at 19 and 21.

The Magic are an under-the-radar winner as well, since they hold Chicago’s first-round pick (top-four protected). The Bulls’ tiebreaker win didn’t affect the team’s odds of moving into the top four, but it substantially increased the odds that Orlando will end up with a pick at No. 8 or 9 instead of 10 or lower.