Steve Clifford

Eastern Notes: Heat Roster, Bosh, Simmons, Clifford

Now that the Heat have significantly reshaped their roster in the offseason, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel examines how willing Miami is to add a 15th player. Though Winderman allows that there are still players in free agency whose additions could improve the on-court product, he notes luxury tax worries could preclude the Heat from adding someone just yet. Winderman adds that a future trade could be the club’s route to making further roster tweaks changes instead.

The Heat’s most significant offseason change was undoubtedly the epic sign-and-trade agreement with 35-year-old veteran point guard Kyle Lowry. Miami also added versatile forward P.J. Tucker, fresh off a title run with the Bucks, and big man Markieff Morris, in addition to re-signing sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, reserve centers Dewayne Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven (though Yurtseven did not play a game with the Heat, he was on the roster at the end of the 2020/21 season), and guards Victor OladipoMax Strus and Gabe Vincent. Additionally, Miami inked All-NBA swingman Jimmy Butler to a lucrative maximum contract extension.

There’s more out of the East:

  • 2021 Hall of Fame inductee Chris Bosh could very well have wound up with the Bulls in 2010 free agency. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel explores the Heat‘s backup plans had the club been unable to secure Bosh’s services. Winderman reveals that, at one point during the 2010 free agent hunt, Bosh relayed to an NBA executive that he would be joining Chicago. Had that transpired, Miami would have pivoted to adding some of the other All-Stars available that summer. “If, in fact, C.B. would have gone somewhere else, we had been recruiting Amar’e [Stoudemire] and we had recruited Joe Johnson,” Heat team president Pat Riley said of his next contingency moves. “It could have worked with Dwyane [Wade] and with LeBron [James], that that team would have been successful. But I don’t know if it would have been as successful as it was with Chris, because Chris was the ultimate complement.”
  • There is currently no end in sight for the Sixers‘ standoff with All-Star Ben Simmons. During a podcast conversation with Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, Brian Windhorst of ESPN indicated that he expects Simmons to remain away from the team through at least the start of the forthcoming 2021/22 NBA season.
  • Newly-added Nets coaching consultant Steve Clifford recently explained his anticipated role with the club, per Ernie Clark of the Bangor Daily News. “I’m here [in Brooklyn] a lot this month and through training camp, and I’ll be more of a resource,” Clifford said. “I’ll be watching a lot of film but most of the time I’ll still be living in Orlando. I’ll visit with the team once or twice a month and just take direction from [head coach] Steve Nash, whatever he wants me to do.” Clifford was previously a head coach with the Magic and Hornets across the past eight NBA seasons.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Clifford, Knicks, Riller

Injuries limited the Nets‘ Big Three from the time James Harden joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in January, but Harden is optimistic that things will be different this season, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post“At full strength, nobody can beat us,” Harden proclaimed.

The trio played just eight games together during the regular season, and the bad luck continued through the playoffs as Harden aggravated a strained hamstring in the second-round series with the Bucks and Irving missed the final three games after injuring his right ankle.

“So I want to make sure I’m completely healed and strong enough so I can go out there and completely be myself,” Harden said. “My rehab is going very, very well, and my getting my conditioning right is a big part of that.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former Magic head coach Steve Clifford will be a consultant with the Nets this season, but his duties haven’t been fully defined, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Clifford said he will help coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks with whatever they need. “Steve and I have had a few discussions about the best way for it to be structured. But basically I’ll be working for Steve and maybe in some instances for Sean on any area that they view I could be helpful with,” Clifford explained. “On any staff, staff chemistry is just like team chemistry. Steve’s the head coach, he’s already proven to be terrific at that; they have a veteran staff, a talented roster.”
  • The Knicks emphasized flexibility in nearly all their free agency moves, notes Ian Begley of Contracts for Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel all have team options for the final season, while Taj Gibson‘s two-year deal is non-guaranteed for the second season. New York will have the chance to create some cap space in 2023, Begley adds.
  • Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines what new two-way player Grant Riller will bring to the Sixers.

Nets Hiring Steve Clifford As Coaching Consultant

The Nets are hiring veteran NBA coach Steve Clifford as a coaching consultant, reports Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Clifford, who previously spent five seasons as Charlotte’s head coach, coached the Magic for the last three seasons, leading the team to a 96-131 (.423) record and a pair of playoff appearances. With Orlando pivoting toward a rebuild this year, Clifford and the team agreed to part ways in June.

Andrews, who refers to Clifford as the “most sought-after assistant in the marketplace,” points out that he has some history with Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash. Clifford was an assistant for the Lakers in 2012/13 when Nash played for the team.

Although Clifford will only be with the Nets periodically during the 2021/22 season, he’ll lend some much-needed experience to a staff that lost top assistants Ime Udoka and Mike D’Antoni this offseason.

Pacers To Interview Clifford, Stotts, Shaw For Head Coaching Job

The Pacers are beginning to interview head coaching candidates this week in Chicago, where the NBA draft combine is taking place, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski, the candidates who are interviewing with Indiana include Steve Clifford, Terry Stotts, and Brian Shaw.

After taking a chance on first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren a year ago, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is unlikely to go that route again, as Bob Kravitz of The Athletic writes. Wojnarowski echoes that point, tweeting that Indiana is “putting a premium” on previous head coaching experience in its search.

Clifford and Stotts have recent head coaching experience, having coached the Magic and Trail Blazers, respectively, up until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Clifford, who also spent several years as the head coach in Charlotte, has an overall regular season record of 292-345 (.458), with four playoff berths in eight seasons.

Stotts had brief stints as a head coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee before spending the last nine seasons with the Trail Blazers. He led Portland to a 402-318 (.558) regular season mark, with eight consecutive postseason appearances.

As for Shaw, he briefly served as the Nuggets’ head coach from 2013-15 and is currently the head coach of the G League Ignite. He also has extensive experience as an assistant, including a stint as the Pacers’ associate head coach from 2011-13.

Rick Carlisle has also been identified as a possible target for the Pacers, and Mike Budenholzer would reportedly be at or near the top of the team’s wish list if the Bucks let him go — that seems less likely now that Milwaukee has advanced to the Eastern Finals. Mike D’Antoni also received serious consideration from Indiana a year ago and could be in the mix again this time around.

Pacers Fire Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren

12:15pm: The Pacers have officially announced in a press release that Bjorkgren won’t be retained for the 2021/22 season.

“The 2020/21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

“We have determined this is the right time to move in a different direction, and on behalf of the Simon Family and the entire Pacers organization, I want to express my gratitude to Nate for his efforts leading our team. While we do not have a definite timetable for our search, we will move quickly to identify candidates who will make our team and our organization stronger.”

10:56am: The Pacers have decided to part ways with head coach Nate Bjorkgren after his first year on the job, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Bjorkgren was informed today of the Pacers’ decision to let him go after he met with management on Tuesday. The team intends to seek out a more experienced, established head coach to replace Bjorkgren, who lost the locker room and “much of the organization” this season, Wojnarowski adds.

The Pacers moved on from Nate McMillan a year ago after a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit in the hopes of hiring a new coach who would modernize the team’s offense and increase its ceiling. Although Bjorkgren did help improve Indiana’s offense, the defense took a major step backward and the former Raptors assistant reportedly had major communication issues with players and coaches alike.

Multiple reports during the final weeks of the regular season indicated that Bjorkgren was on the hot seat, and failing to secure a playoff spot in the play-in tournament presumably didn’t help his chances of sticking around.

Given how many injuries the Pacers dealt with during the 2020/21 campaign, it’s unclear how much more another coach could’ve gotten out of the roster. And since Bjorkgren had one more guaranteed year on his contract, there was a belief that the small-market Pacers may prefer to give him another chance rather than having to commit financially to a second head coaching contract. However, it sounds like the issues with Bjorkgren were too widespread to make continuing the relationship a viable choice.

Indiana becomes the fourth team to enter the market for a new head coach this spring, joining Boston, Portland, and Orlando. Because they conducted an extensive search for a coach in 2020 before landing on Bjorkgren, the Pacers may already have a leg up in this year’s search, having gotten familiar with several candidates who could be on their radar again. However, new candidates will be considered as well.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

One of those new candidates, who wasn’t available a year ago, is former Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers are expected to take a look at Stotts, while Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says (via Twitter) league sources have increasingly identified Stotts as a leading candidate for the job in Indiana. Josh Robbins of The Athletic previously reported that league sources expect the Pacers to interview Steve Clifford following his exit from Orlando.

As for Bjorkgren’s future, Josh Lewenberg of tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Nurse‘s former assistant – and good friend – ends up returning to Toronto. The Raptors lost a top assistant midway through the 2020/21 season when Chris Finch was hired as Minnesota’s head coach, and Nurse strongly defended Bjorkgren amidst last month’s negative reports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steve Clifford Will Not Return As Magic Coach

12:10pm: The team has confirmed the decision via a press release. The statement suggests Clifford may pursue other head coaching opportunities.

“We would like to thank Steve for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” Weltman said. “We appreciate the many sacrifices he has made as our head coach and understand the timeline of our new path does not align with his goals as a head coach in our league.”

11:45am: The Magic and coach Steve Clifford have mutually agreed to part ways, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Clifford has met with management multiple times over recent weeks and the two sides ultimately agreed to move on. Clifford guided the Magic into the playoffs in his first two seasons with a core group that included Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.

Those players were shipped away at the trade deadline as the organization went into full rebuild mode. A season-ending injury to point guard Markelle Fultz began the chain of events that convinced the front office to hit the reset button.

Clifford compiled a 96-131 regular-season record with the club. Management will obviously be seeking a head coach who can develop young talent and stay patient through the process.

Clifford, 59, coached Charlotte for five seasons before he was hired by the Magic. He had one year left on his contract.

Orlando joins Portland and Boston as teams seeking new head coaches. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link), the Magic are interested in Terry Stotts, who parted ways with the Trail Blazers on Friday.

The recent talks between Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and Clifford centered on the veteran coach’s long-term future with the franchise.

Orlando’s management was pleased with Clifford and his coaching staff and discussed the possibility of a contract extension, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. But with the Magic in the early stages of a rebuild, Clifford wasn’t ready to commit to a longer deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Heat, Theis, Clifford

Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak recently discussed a variety of topics related to his team, including free agency, head coach James Borrego, LaMelo Ball and more.

Charlotte (33-39) managed to reach the play-in tournament despite coping with several injuries this season, but lost to Indiana by a score of 144-117. Still, Kupchak believes the Hornets are on the rise and should appeal to free agents this summer.

“I think free agents around the league look at the pace we play, and players want to play that way. I think we have a player’s coach,” Kupchak said, as relayed by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “And if (free agents) remember why (Ball) is so much fun to play with — his ability to pass — I don’t know why players wouldn’t want to come here to play with him.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Injury Notes: Ingram, Vucevic, LeBron, Magic

An MRI has revealed that Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram suffered a left low-ankle sprain during the team’s 108-103 victory over the Warriors on Tuesday, the team has announced via Twitter. Ingram is set to miss Friday night’s contest against the Sixers and is considered day-to-day with the injury beyond that.

Losing Ingram, the club’s second-leading scorer behind All-Star forward Zion Williamson, could be a major blow for New Orleans as the team strives to qualify for the play-in tournament in a crowded Western Conference field. With a 30-36 record, the Pelicans currently sit just two games behind the Spurs for a shot at the play-in tournament in the West this season.

There’s more injury news from around the league:

  • Bulls All-Star center Nikola Vučević (adductor) was able to fully participate in a team practice today, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Head coach Billy Donovan commented that the sharp-shooting big man, who has missed the club’s last two games, “looked fine.”
  • Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James will miss at least the next two games and potentially more as he grapples with fresh, sharp pain in his sprained ankle, Dave McMenamin told Rachel Nichols and Richard Jefferson on ESPN’s The Jump (Twitter video link). A source informed McMenamin that James is “focusing on the big picture” right now. “Does ‘big picture’ mean two more games missed? I’m not so sure,” McMenamin said. “He is clearly prioritizing using every bit of time he can to… get back for the playoffs.”
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford has indicated that five injured players could miss the rest of the 2020/21 NBA season, tweets Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams and power forward Chuma Okeke are both sidelined with ankle sprains. Wing James Ennis is unavailable with a sore calf. Injury-prone forward Otto Porter Jr., who has played in just 28 games this season for the Magic and Bulls, is struggling with foot pain. Swingman Terrence Ross has been felled by back spasms. “I don’t even know what the time frame [is],” Clifford conceded. “If you look at the schedule now, it’s seven games, I think it’d be 12 days, and I’m not sure even if any of those guys are that close, to be honest with you.”

Magic’s Steve Clifford Cleared To Return On Wednesday

Magic head coach Steve Clifford, who has been in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for over a week, has been cleared and is on track to coach the team on Wednesday vs. Boston, the team announced today (via Twitter).

We heard back on April 24 that Clifford had registered a positive test for COVID-19. However, he had just received his second vaccination shot and reportedly didn’t experience any symptoms following his diagnosis. Despite not feeling ill, Clifford had to clear the league’s protocols before being given the go-ahead to be around the Magic again.

Clifford has missed five games so far and also won’t be available for Monday’s game against the Pistons, since the team has already traveled to Detroit for that contest. He’ll be ready to go when the Magic return home to host the Celtics on Wednesday.

In Clifford’s absence, Tyrone Corbin temporarily took the reins as Orlando’s acting head coach. He has led the team to a 2-3 record so far, with wins over Cleveland and Memphis.

Southeast Notes: Hornets’ Centers, Ball, Oladipo, Clifford

James Borrego isn’t satisfied with his options at center and he hasn’t been since he took over as Hornets coach three years ago, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, P.J. Washington and Vernon Carey have all seen time in middle this season, but none of them has been outstanding. Washington will probably be the starter for the rest of the season, Bonnell adds, but he’s a natural power forward at 6-7 and likely isn’t the long-term answer.

“Every night I’m just trying to figure it out with that group. It’s been like that for three years,” Borrego said after watching his team get outrebounded 54-33 in a loss to the Celtics this week. “It may be another three years that we continue to look like that, actually. … Just trying to piece it together.”

General manager Mitch Kupchak was interested in James Wiseman in last year’s draft, but the Warriors grabbed him with the second pick. Charlotte may not be in the lottery this year, but the club will have about $30MM in cap room when free agency begins. Bonnell suggests targeting Kings center Richaun Holmes or trying to trade for Pacers center Myles Turner.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • With LaMelo Ball returning tonight from a fractured wrist, Nekias Duncan of Basketball News examines how the Hornets‘ dynamic rookie impacts the game through play-making, scoring and defense.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo may be getting closer to playing, even though he didn’t accompany the team on its weekend road trip, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Oladipo hasn’t played since hurting his knee in an April 8 game, and the team hasn’t provided much information about a possible return. However, coach Erik Spoelstra said Oladipo is “making progress,” according to a tweet from the team. Tyler Herro, who continues to have issues with his injured foot, missed the road trip as well, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (via Twitter).
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford continues to be sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, but acting coach Tyrone Corbin said Clifford “feels great,” tweets Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Corbin said Clifford is still not showing any symptoms of the virus and his oxygen numbers remain good.