Scott Brooks

Eastern Notes: Brooks, Ntilikina, Lopez, Knicks

Wizards coach Scott Brooks recently finished his third season with Washington and 10th season as an NBA head coach, reaching a full decade in the position and achieving a goal that very few coaches do these days.

Brooks guided the Wizards through a tumultuous, injury-plagued season and finished with a 32-50 record, causing some around the league to question his future job security. Team owner Ted Leonsis has since decided to keep Brooks entering next season, but Brooks was non-committal on whether the rest of his staff would be joining him for another year.

“I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks said, as relayed by Ben Standig of NBC Sports. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We’re probably going to make some changes. I don’t know if it’s for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks shares a close relationship with former Rockets defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who was let go from Houston in a surprising move last week. Washington could wind up pursuing Bzdelik or lose some of their assistant coaches – such as Tony Brown – to other teams, Standig notes. Brown was one of Brooks’ lead assistants this past season but is now a coaching free agent.

Regardless of which assistant coaches return for Washington, the team is still seeking a new president of basketball operations and recently offered their vacant position to Denver’s Tim Connelly, according to a report from The Athletic.

“Ted is going to make a [president of basketball operations] decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

Here are some other notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks will explore a trade centered around Frank Ntilikina in the hopes of landing a late first-round or early second-round draft pick, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. New York explored moving Ntilikina during the regular season but ultimately opted to hold onto him past the NBA’s trade deadline. Ntilikina was drafted by the Knicks with the No. 8 pick in 2017.
  • Brook Lopez‘s big Game 1 showed once again why the Bucks’ decision to sign him was a steal last summer, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Lopez, who is on a one-year, $3.4MM deal, finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in Milwaukee’s Game 1 victory.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks previews the offseason for the Knicks, including potential free-agent targets, the draft, possible trades and future moves. New York is widely expected to pursue top-tier free agents such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker when free agency opens on the night of June 30.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Wall, Draft

Scott Brooks still has two years and $14MM left on his contract and while he hasn’t heard a definite answer on his future, he expects to be on the Wizards‘ bench next season.

“I haven’t been told anything different,” Brooks said (via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post). “I’m not saying this in an arrogant way, but I worry about my job day-to-day. I don’t worry about my job long-term. I worry about doing my job today. If that’s good, I can do it again tomorrow.”

The Wizards were plagued with injuries this season, but Brooks has done well with the hand he was dealt. Bradley Beal evolved into a premier player under his leadership and Brooks made several prudent rotation decisions, such as inserting Thomas Bryant into the starting lineup instead of Ian Mahinmi when Dwight Howard was forced out of action. Mahinmi was the team’s fourth-highest paid player at the time so the decision wasn’t an easy one to make.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Brooks acknowledges that he has to continue to improve as a coach, as Buckner relays in the same piece. His defensive scheme could be an area where change occurs.“We have to, myself and my staff and I have to be — I have to evaluate just like Ted and our new person will evaluate, as well,” Brooks said. “But it’s a lot of things we have to look at, and everything is on the table.”
  • According to some within the Wizards‘ organization, John Wall lost his edge once he signed his mammoth deal and some questioned his level of commitment to the game, The Athletic’s Michael Lee writes. Wall has gained a greater appreciation for the game being away from basketball and he’s anxious to prove all of his doubters wrong. “Just hearing what people say, that just keeps my fuel going,” Wall said. “I read all the articles. It’s over. His career is over. All that type of stuff. So, it’s fun for me.”
  • The Wizards can’t let Wall deter them from drafting a top point guard prospect during the upcoming draft, Lee argues in the same piece. The scribe believes Washington should take Ja Morant if available but ultimately the team needs to take the best player available regardless of position.

Wizards Expected To Keep Scott Brooks As Coach

The shakeup in Washington won’t include head coach Scott Brooks, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. The Wizards fired GM Ernie Grunfeld yesterday as the first step in what could be a massive housecleaning, but multiple sources tell Aldridge that Brooks’ job remains safe.

Brooks has a 124-118 record since taking over in Washington in 2016. He still has two years left on his five-year, $35MM contract, so there’s a financial incentive for the franchise to keep him around. This will be the first time the Wizards will miss the playoffs under his guidance.

“I’ve spent one-on-one time with Scott just to tell him I expect us to do, work hard and play hard and continue to give the fans their money’s worth,” owner Ted Leonsis said Tuesday.

There’s more today on the shakeup in Washington:

  • Nuggets executive Tim Connelly is believed to be the top candidate to replace Grunfeld, but the Wizards will strongly consider promoting VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, confirms Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington. Leonsis told reporters that Sheppard, who has been with the organization for 16 years, will get a shot at the GM post. “I’ve told Tommy it’s not lip service, you’re highly regarded and there’s other teams that want to talk to Tommy and when the time comes, we will interview for the top job,” Leonsis said. Sheppard is also reportedly being considered for the Pelicans’ open GM spot.
  • League sources tell Standig that others names to watch in the GM search are Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren and Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry. Other possibilities include former Cavaliers GM David Griffin and Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon.
  • Figuring out what to do with the backcourt will be the greatest challenge for the new GM, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. John Wall may miss all of next season with a ruptured Achilles while making $37.8MM in the first year of his supermax contract, while Bradley Beal will be eligible for a supermax of his own this summer if he makes an All-NBA team. If the Wizards decide to rebuild, Beal could find himself on the trade market.
  • Grunfeld’s most significant mistake was targeting Kevin Durant in free agency in 2016 and not having a backup plan ready when he signed with the Warriors, Aldridge contends in the Athletic piece. Grunfeld spent two years clearing cap space to make a run at Durant, who never gave the team serious consideration. That meant parting with solid players such as Nene and Trevor Ariza. Grunfeld tried to sign Al Horford after not getting a meeting with Durant, but then gave $64MM to Ian Mahinmi and $26MM to Andrew Nicholson.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Leonsis, GM Search

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said he alone made the call to relieve Ernie Grunfeld of his duties. “No one made this decision other than me,” Leonsis said (Twitter links via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post).

“My main goal is to right now as fast as I can bring in an outside firm to provide some services for us,” Leonsis said. “I want to do what’s called ‘best practicing.’ What do the best organizations look like? What do they spend?

“Maybe I made the mistake in the way we spent and invested out money. I have to be open-minded.”

Leonsis does not believe the organization will have issues attracting a top candidate for the GM gig, a sentiment echoed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Resources and geography are among the reasons to expect the position to be highly sought after.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Tommy Sheppard, the team’s interim GM, is a strong candidate for the position, per Leonsis. Sheppard is the senior vice president of basketball operations and has been with the organization for 14 years.
  • Leonsis called both Bradley Beal and John Wall shortly after making the move to notify them of the change, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports tweets.
  • Scott Brooks’ job status will be determined after a general manager is hired, Leonsis added (via Hughes in a separate tweet). The new GM won’t be restricted in terms of the direction the franchise goes in, as Leonsis is open to all ideas.
  • Hughes (in a full-length piece) identifies 10 possible candidates for the GM position, including Sheppard and former Cavs GM David Griffin. Hughes also speculated that Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton, who was with the Wizards from 2003 until 2013, could be a candidate for the position.

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.

Wizards Attempting To Move On From Distractions

The Wizards are downplaying the internal conflict, trade rumors, and flare-ups, with coach Scott Brooks telling the media that the team has “moved on.”

“It happened last week,” Brooks said (via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com). “We moved on from it as a team. Not trying to minimize what happened, but in all sports, all teams I’ve been on — I’ve been in the league for almost 30 years as a player, as an assistant coach, as a head coach — that has happened.

“It’s something that you understand that it’s a competitive environment and a lot of times, you have adult conversations that get heated. And we all have to live with what we say and work things out when that does happen and move on.”

On Monday, it was reported that Washington had deemed no player untouchable in trade discussions. Bradley Beal, the Wizard who likely has the most trade value, hasn’t explicitly expressed a desire to be traded, though at least one team has already contacted the franchise about his availability.

“I’m not going to be naive to it, you know,” Beal told Bontemps among other reporters on Monday about the possibility of being traded. “I’ve heard those rumors weeks ago. Then, I didn’t buy into them. Now, I’m still not going to buy into them because if that’s my main priority and focus, then I’m going to be messed up on the floor.”

Entering Tuesday, the Wizards own a record of 5-11 and Brooks will shake up the rotation with the hopes of getting better results. The team is moving Markieff Morris to the bench and pairing Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter in the starting lineup, Candace Buckner of The Washington Post tweets.

Frustrated Wizards Get Heated In Recent Practice

7:04pm: Beal and Austin Rivers were among the players who had a verbal altercation, Buckner tweets.

6:48pm: Wall was fined for cursing at Brooks during the heated practice, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Wall was upset when Brooks implored the team to turn up the intensity during the practice. Wall apologized to Brooks and the teammates the following day, Wojnarowski adds.

5:40pm: Things are getting very testy around the underperforming Wizards. They had a heated practice recently in which numerous players engaged in verbal spats, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. Exasperated shooting guard Bradley Beal told team officials after that practice “I’ve been dealing with this for seven years,” Charania continues (Twitter links).

Tensions tend to run high when things aren’t going well, so these types of exchanges aren’t unusual, Charania notes. Washington, considered the favorite to win the watered-down Southeast Division title, is slogging along with a 5-11 record amid speculation about potential blockbuster trades and coach Scott Brooks‘ job status.

The players are fed up, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington confirms in a tweet, and Brooks curiously said Monday the team just had one of its best practices this year. It was unclear whether Brooks was referring to today’s practice or the one involving the verbal exchanges.

Short fuses and frustration have been apparent since the first two weeks of the season. Beal and Wall called out teammates late last month for their lack of effort and focus.

Changes could be on the horizon. An ESPN report today claimed that the Wizards’ front office is giving rival executives the impression that they’re willing to break up the All-Star backcourt of Beal and John Wall, though the team’s brass would prefer to swap Otto Porter Jr. or Kelly Oubre.

However, the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner reports that the franchise doesn’t plan to move on from its franchise cornerstones and that there has been little traction in trade discussions involving Porter.

Beal doubts that he or Wall will be wearing a different uniform in the near future, as he told Buckner.

“I’ve heard those rumors weeks ago,” he said. “Then, I didn’t buy into them. Now, I’m still not going to buy into them because if that’s my main priority and focus, then I’m going to be messed up on the floor.”

Southeast Notes: Young, Johnson, Wizards, Lamb

Hawks guard Trae Young firmly believes he’ll be a better player than fellow rookie Luka Doncic, explaining his reasoning to Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated this week. The two players have been compared for months after the Hawks and Mavericks agreed to a draft-night trade in June.

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

The Hawks traded their No. 3 pick — used on Doncic — to Dallas in exchange for the No. 5 selection and a first-round pick in the 2019 Draft. Atlanta then made the decision to draft Young fifth overall and solidify him as the franchise centerpiece.

Young has averaged 17.5 points and 8.2 assists in 14 games this season, shooting 41% from the floor and 27% from downtown. To compare, Doncic has averaged 19.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest, connecting on 47% from the field and 39% from 3-point territory.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Heat guard Tyler Johnson labeled the importance of the team staying hungry for success, despite several players cashing in on new contracts in recent seasons. “I think what’s crazy is before any of us got any money, we were just some dogs,” Johnson said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “I think that’s what the beautiful thing is. We had to just come together.”
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports details how Wizards coach Scott Brooks has consistently altered his rotation this season, keeping his players on edge. Brooks’ changes are in response to the team’s poor start to the 2018/19 season.
  • Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb will likely receive interest from multiple teams in free agency, putting his potential return after the season in question, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. Lamb is averaging 12.9 points in 14 games, tied for his career-best.

 

Southeast Notes: Brooks, Satoransky, Bacon

Despite a rough 3-9 start for the Wizards this season, Candace Buckner writes for The Washington Post that head coach Scott Brooks doesn’t appear to be at risk of losing his job as a result of his strong relationship with the front office and the support he has from his players.

Buckner also points out that it doesn’t hurt Brooks that he is owed $21MM over the remainder of his contract as the team’s roster soars past the luxury tax. Furthermore, Brooks oversees a coaching staff that doesn’t have assistants with much coaching experience in the league, making it more difficult to put one in charge on an interim basis. Finally, Bucker notes that Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis has practiced patience when it comes to making changes regarding basketball operations.

With that being said, should the Wizards continue underperforming, there will likely be significant changes made to the organization.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • With the aforementioned struggling Wizards looking for solutions at any turn, Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington writes that an increased role for Tomas Satoransky may be part of the solution. The team’s ball movement increased when Satoransky was running the point briefly last season, which may be the way to get everyone involved in the offense.
  • New Hornets‘ head coach James Borrego may have more complicated rotational decisions to make moving forward, as Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer points out that sophomore wing Dwayne Bacon has stood out in the recent playing time he has received.
  • Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders continues the series of “Areas of Concern” for the Southeast, as he tackles the issues plaguing each team in the division.

Lawrence’s Latest: Rockets, Butler, Stotts, Suns

The Timberwolves didn’t show much interest in the Rocketstrade offer for Jimmy Butler that featured four first-round picks along with Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News confirms. According to Lawrence, Tom Thibodeau views Knight and Chriss as “dead weight” and would prefer a deal that includes Eric Gordon and/or P.J. Tucker.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is also the latest reporter to identify the Sixers as a potential dark horse in the Butler sweepstakes. Lawrence suggests Philadelphia had hoped to trade the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder in a deal for Kawhi Leonard and could offer that pick to the Timberwolves in a Butler package.

Here’s more from Lawrence:

  • According to Lawrence, league executives think that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will bring in someone with strong ties to the franchise to run the front office next year. Lawrence identifies Chauncey Billups as one possible candidate.
  • Although Terry Stotts appears safe as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for now, there are rival GMs and scouts that view his position as “tenuous,” says Lawrence. Stotts, whose contract runs through 2019/20, sought an extension in the offseason but was turned down by owner Paul Allen, according to Lawrence. Allen has since passed away and his sister Jody has always been more involved with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks than the NBA club, resulting in speculation about a Blazers sale, Lawrence notes. That could create further uncertainty for Stotts.
  • One Western Conference president on the Suns, according to Lawrence: “The minority owners are furious that [owner Robert] Sarver decided on his own to fire [GM Ryan] McDonough.”
  • Lawrence echoes an earlier report, writing that the Wizards are showing no inclination to break up their team or to fire head coach Scott Brooks. However, one Eastern Conference executive cautions that could change. “Brooks’ seat could get hotter if they don’t win and management thinks the team is better than it really is,” the exec tells Lawrence.