Sarunas Jasikevicius

Potential Grizzlies Target May Stay In Europe

Zalgiris Kaunas coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who has been mentioned as a possibility for the head coaching vacancy in Memphis, didn’t sound ready to pursue the NBA after leading his team to the LKL title today in Lithuania, relays Orzaio Cauchi of Sportando.

“Now I can’t say anything. It’s so great in Kaunas, that some very incredible situation must come, that I would change it,” Jasikevicius said during the post-game celebration. “Now I feel very good in Zalgiris. I don’t need to chase anything, because Zalgiris is a top organization.”

Considered one of the EuroLeague’s top coaches, Jasikevicius has previous NBA experience as a player, spending two seasons with the Pacers and Warriors from 2005 to 2007. The 43-year-old interviewed with the Raptors last summer and turned down an offer to become an assistant after Nick Nurse was hired.

The Grizzlies, who are the NBA’s only team without a head coach, have reportedly talked to Alex JensenJarron CollinsIgor KokoskovNate TibbettsAdrian Griffin and Taylor Jenkins. The position has been open since J.B. Bickerstaff was fired April 11.

“We can talk a lot, but as I understand, now it’s the process of information gathering,” Jasikevicius said about the Memphis job. “I don’t know if it will get more serious. But I don’t want to go deeper on rumors about me and my players.”

Grizzlies Notes: Jasikevicius, Valanciunas, Conley

It looks like the Grizzlies will have to scratch one name off their list of potential head coaches. Lithuanian basketball journalist Donatas Urbonas is reporting that Zalgiris Kaunas is confident Sarunas Jasikevicius will return to coach the team next season (Twitter link). Memphis, the only NBA team currently without a head coach, reportedly has interest in Jasikevicius if he decides to leave Europe.

“Today it seems like everything is OK and Saras is staying in Zalgiris,” team executive Robertas Javtokas said in a TV interview. “I think last year we had even bigger headache due to Saras’ future status. Of course, if [an] NBA offer comes, we will be very glad for him. It would be an issue for us, but we know Saras won’t be here forever and we must be ready for this.” (Twitter link)

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin was the latest candidate to interview for the Grizzlies’ vacancy. He joins former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • By conducting a thorough coaching search, the Grizzlies are making up for their mistake last summer when they didn’t talk to anyone outside the organization before giving the job to interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, writes Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. Herrington recommends that the team look for someone relatively young who has head coaching experience at some level and a track record of player development.
  • Center Jonas Valanciunas recently indicated that the coaching hire will affect whether he decides to opt in to a $17.6MM salary next season, Herrington notes. Valanciunas, who averaged 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game after being acquired from the Raptors midway through the season, has a June 13 deadline to make his decision.
  • A Mike Conley trade is more likely to happen after July 1 because more teams will have cap room to absorb part of his salary, Herrington writes in a separate story. The Grizzlies will be well stocked at point guard if they draft Ja Morant and keep free agent Delon Wright, so Herrington expects the club to focus on players who get drafted next month, along with future draft picks and young players with affordable contracts for the next few years. The Timberwolves, Heat, Pistons, Jazz and Pacers are considered the most likely landing spots for Conley, according to Herrington, but the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Celtics are candidates to enter the mix depending how free agency turns out.

Grizzlies To Interview Tibbetts For Coaching Job

The Grizzlies have been granted permission to interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching vacancy, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Tibbetts has been on other teams’ lists recently during their head coaching searches. He was expected to be interviewed by the Cavaliers, but they chose Michigan coach John Beilein before that potential meeting. Tibbetts interviewed with the Suns before they selected Monty Williams. He was also one of four finalists for the Hawks job last summer that went to Lloyd Pierce.

Memphis, which parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff after the season, has already interviewed at least three other candidates for the job — former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t filled its head coaching vacancy.

Grizzlies Interested In Sarunas Jasikevicius

After Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen interviewed on Tuesday for the team’s vacant head coaching position, another name has now emerged as a candidate to be the Grizzlies’ next head coach, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

The Grizzlies, who fired coach J.B. Bickerstaff following a record of 33-49 during the 2018/19 season, reportedly plan to soon meet with Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius, currently the head coach of Zalgiris Kaunas and one of the EuroLeague’s rising coaching stars, as the team continues to go through the early stages of its coaching search.

Jasikevicius, 43, is known for his strong-willed leadership style and coaching teams that exhibit elite ball movement and offensive execution, skills that have become synonymous with success at the NBA level.

As we detailed last summer, the Raptors interviewed Jasikevicius before hiring Nick Nurse and even offered him a job as an assistant coach on Nurse’s staff before he opted to remain in Lithuania. Since that time, his name continues to come up with front offices around the league as a possible NBA coaching candidate.

Jasikevicius, once a decorated EuroLeague player, also played two seasons in the NBA with the Pacers and Warriors from 2005 to 2007, where he held career averages of 6.8 PPG and 2.9 APG while shooting 35.5% from long range and over 90% from the foul line.

Eastern Notes: Pacers, Magic, Nets, Pistons

While the Pacers should enter July with the flexibility to explore free agency, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard doesn’t sound like someone ready to pursue the top players on the open market. While a foray into free agency is possible, Pritchard could also use Indiana’s cap room to accommodate the acquisition of an impact player in a trade, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” Pritchard said of the Pacers. “I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of things can happen with that. We preserved that (space).”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After putting together a roster full of athletic players with long wingspans in Milwaukee, Magic GM John Hammond appears to be doing the same thing in Orlando, says Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype.
  • Although the two international prospects drafted by the Nets on Thursday have plenty of long-term promise, neither Dzanan Musa nor Rodions Kurucs is expected to make an immediate impact in the NBA, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.
  • Dwane Casey continues to fill out his new staff in Detroit, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that DJ Bakker is heading from the Raptors to the Pistons to become Casey’s player development coach.
  • Speaking of the Raptors, they offered Sarunas Jasikevicius an assistant coaching job on Nick Nurse‘s staff, but he has elected to remain in Lithuania, per Jonas Miklovas (Twitter link). The Zalgiris Kaunas coach interviewed for Toronto’s head coaching vacancy before the club promoted Nurse.

Latest On Raptors’ Coaching Search

The Raptors plan to trim their group of coaching candidates down to three finalists in the next seven to 10 days, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.

Spurs assistant Ettore Messina is expected to be on the list, along with longtime Raptors assistant Nick Nurse, according to Grange. He expects the other finalist to be Sarunas Jasikevicius, who briefly played in the NBA and has become one of Europe’s top coaching propects.

Jasikevicius, who serves as head coach of EuroLeague team Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania, interviewed with Raptors president Masai Ujiri over the weekend at the NBA Global Camp in Italy.

Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, who is among the finalists for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy, may also get consideration from the Raptors, Grange adds.

Toronto hopes to hire a new coach by the end of the month, and Nurse should be considered the front-runner, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports, who adds that several outside candidates are still being considered. Nurse is viewed highly by the front office after revamping the Raptors’ offense heading into this season.

The organization may talk to some more candidates before a final decision is made, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Raptors Interview Sarunas Jasikevicius For HC Job

The Raptors have interviewed Zalgiris head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius for their open head coaching job, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). A former NBA player, Jasikevicius spoke to Toronto president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri about the Raps’ vacancy, Wojnarowski adds.

Although he spent most of his playing career in Europe, Jasikevicius appeared in a total of 138 NBA regular season games for the Pacers and Warriors from 2005 to 2007. He played for European clubs before and after his NBA stint, finishing his career in 2014 with Lithuania’s Zalgiris.

Upon retiring, Jasikevicius immediately transitioned into an assistant coaching role for his Lithuanian team. During the 2015/16, he was named the interim head coach before eventually being promoted to the permanent role in January of 2016. Zalgiris made a surprise run to the EuroLeague Final Four this year, winning the third-place game over CSKA Moscow last month.

Jasikevicius’ name hadn’t come up at all during NBA head coaching searches this spring, so the Raptors are deviating from the league’s usual list of coaching candidates by considering the 42-year-old Lithuanian.

As our tracker shows, Toronto’s search for Dwane Casey‘s replacement had primarily focused on in-house candidates and Spurs assistants, with Jerry Stackhouse, Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, Ettore Messina, and Ime Udoka receiving consideration. Jasikevicius is an intriguing new name to add to that group.