Steve Clifford

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Mozgov, Hornets, Gordon

Justise Winslow took a giant leap with the Heat in December, seeing most of his minutes at point guard and proving his worth by running the team’s offense during games. The sudden transformation came when All-Star guard Goran Dragic sustained a knee injury, forcing coach Erik Spoelstra to make a quick decision and give more ball-handling duties to Winslow.

Winslow has thrived in Dragic’s absence, providing multiple 20-plus point games and high assist games with Miami.

“Justise at the point guard is a lot different,” teammate Hassan Whiteside said. “He’s so big, he can just a lot of time bulldoze his way to the basket when he can’t get a pass.”

The rapid increase of production from Winslow, the Heat’s 2015 first-round pick, has earned the confidence of Spoelstra and the Heat’s coaching staff. Spoelstra outlined his perfect hypothetical stat line for Winslow in the coming years, giving him a high benchmark to set.

“I think the perfect stat lines for him would be 14, 15 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals,” Spoelstra said, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “There’s very few guys in this league that can have that kind of balance and effect on a basketball game and he’s one of those kind of guys.”

Winslow has averaged 14.7 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game over his last 13 contests, with the Heat holding a 9-4 record during that span.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic center Timofey Mozgov underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure in his right knee, the team announced on social media. Mozgov had the surgery on Friday in Miami, with his return to basketball activity dictated on how he responds to treatment. Mosgov has yet to play a single game with Orlando this season.
  • Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer examines the situation between Kemba Walker and the Hornets, with Walker set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Charlotte has failed to build a successful team around Walker during his time with the team, Fowler writes, but could offer him a five-year maximum extension worth $190MM in free agency. Walker has averaged a career-high 25.3 points, 5.9 assists and 1.3 steals this season with the Hornets.
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford praised Aaron Gordon for his solid play in recent games, as relayed by Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel.“I think he’s playing at an incredibly high level and some nights he’s not getting as many shots, but I think it’s because he’s really locked in on just making the right play and making plays for his teammates and things like that,” Clifford said of Gordon. “I think his defense and his rebounding have been terrific and I think he’s in a stretch of games here where he’s just playing really well.”

Southeast Notes: Williams, Howard, Whiteside, Clifford

Hornets forward Marvin Williams has a right shoulder strain, an MRI on Monday confirmed, according to a team press release. Williams suffered the injury on Sunday and will be re-evaluated next week. Lottery pick Miles Bridges, who scored a career-high 16 points in 29 minutes against New Orleans, will see his role expand during Williams’ absence. Williams is averaging 8.3 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 24.8 MPG.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards center Dwight Howard is more likely to exercise his player option for next season after undergoing surgery last week, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Howard underwent a spinal procedure to correct a gluteal ailment and will be sidelined for two to three months. He has a $5.6MM option and if he exercises it, it’d likely push the Wizards further over the projected cap. Washington already has $111MM in salary guarantees to just five players next season.
  • Heat center Hassan Whiteside has often been out of the late-game mix, David Wilson of the Miami Herald reports. Prior to his 23-point, 20-rebound outburst against Utah on Sunday, Whiteside had not played more than 25 minutes in the team’s previous four games.
  • Prior health scares related to a lack of sleep has caused lifestyle changes for Magic coach Steve Clifford, as Shaun Powell of NBA.com details. Clifford now gets a normal amount of sleep and he feels he can now more effectively perform his job. “I feel great, I feel like I have a lot more energy,” he told Powell. “Getting seven hours every night, I find that very relaxing. I’ve developed other interests.”

Southeast Notes: Parker, Collins, Wizards, Clifford

Hawks power forward John Collins continues to show progress from mild inflammation and soreness in his left ankle, according to a team press release, but it’s still uncertain when he’ll make his season debut. The 2017 first-round selection has progressed to modified on-court drills and shooting routines with the goal of integrating him into modified team practice this week. Collins averaged 10.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG in his rookie year.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Tony Parker and Malik Monk head the list of pleasant surprises for the Hornets this season, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines. Parker has stabilized the second unit and Bonnell notes that the veteran point guard averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 assists per 100 possessions last season for the Spurs but is posting 28.2 points and 13.3 assists per 100 possessions in his first 10 games with Charlotte. Monk, a second-year shooting guard, is the team’s second-leading scorer (13.4 PPG) despite also coming off the bench.
  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks shortened his rotation in a victory over the Knicks on Sunday, as Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington points out. Ian Mahinmi was the odd man out even though the Knicks kept a traditional center on the court throughout the game. With Dwight Howard back in action and starting at center, Brooks used forward Markieff Morris at the five spot to make the second unit more mobile.
  • The Magic have gotten off to another slow start but first-year coach Steve Clifford is keeping the team’s spirits up with stories of how other teams he’s coached have gone through similar stretches, John Denton of the team’s website writes. “He was telling us that in his first year in Charlotte they were under (eight) games from .500, but they stuck together, kept fighting, made the playoffs and was a top-10 defensive team,’’ Magic swingman Evan Fournier said. “When a guy like that has seen it all, it gives you confidence and belief.”

Southeast Notes: Parker, Clifford, Carter, Jackson

In a wide-ranging Q&A session with Matt Rochinski of Hornets.com, newly-signed veteran point guard Tony Parker discusses what brought him to Charlotte, his expectations for the upcoming season and more.

In regard to why he chose the Hornets, Parker says that he just wanted to do something different and experience something new. “I’ve been with the Spurs for a long time – 17 years… I know it sounds simple – but I just wanted to see something else – go to the East Coast and go do something else in the NBA.”

Parker also touched upon the close relationship he has with Hornets’ forward Nicolas Batum, a longtime teammate of Parker’s on the French national team, and new head coach James Borrego, who was a longtime Spurs’ assistant coach before taking the head job in Charlotte.

Parker also added that having his idol, Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan, reach out to him factored into his decision. For a more in-depth look into Parker’s mindset heading into the 2018/19 season, make sure to check out the entire interview transcript.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • In a Q&A with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, New Magic head coach Steve Clifford seems to be concentrating on returning the franchise to its relative glory days from 2009 and 2010, when Clifford was an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy on an Orlando squad that reached the NBA Finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.
  • The Heat have hired former NBA guard Anthony Carter to its coaching staff as a Player Development Coach after he spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the team’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Carter will specifically help with implementing Miami’s player development and mentorship programs within the Skyforce.
  • According to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 DaysMagic 2018 NBA Draft selection Justin Jackson is expected to sign a G League contract with the Lakeland Magic and become a domestic draft-and-stash prospect.

Southeast Notes: Gordon, Simmons, Muscala, James

Newly-hired Magic head coach Steve Clifford recently visited Aaron Gordon in San Jose, California as part of an effort to get to know his players, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Gordon is a restricted free agent this summer, but reports have indicated that the Magic are likely to retain his services, even if they have to go up to the maximum salary to do so.

In April, Gordon addressed what his “ideal’ contract would be this summer. “Ideal is max,” Gordon said, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link). “That would be ideal. Three letters. … Definitely here (in Orlando).”

While injuries limited him to 58 games this past season, Gordon posted the best totals of his career. Gordon, 22, averaged 17.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG for the Magic.

Check out more Southeast Division notes below:

  • Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons underwent surgery on his right wrist in late April, a team spokesman confirmed to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Simmons missed the final 12 games of the season due to a wrist injury. It’s unclear when Simmons will resume basketball activities. In 69 games, Simmons averaged  13.9 PPG while shooting 46.5% from the field.
  • Hawks big man Mike Muscala remains undecided about what he will do with his $5MM player option for 2018/19, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Muscala has until June 29 to make a decision on that option.
  • While the possibility may be slim, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers to join the Wizards is not that far-fetched, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington opines. Hughes writes that the opportunity to stay in the Eastern Conference, a chance to win now, and a fondness for D.C. are just a few reasons why James could consider the nation’s capital.

Nikola Vucevic Interested In Long-Term Deal With Magic

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is happy in Orlando and can see a long-term future with the franchise, as he told Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype. Vucevic has one year and $12.75MM remaining on his contract, then becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Vucevic would like to see progress from the team next season but has faith that it’s headed in the right direction.

“I believe we aren’t too far away and we can compete very soon,” he said. “When you win in this league, that’s the best feeling. So that’s what is most important to me. I do believe we can get there, though.”

There’s more nuggets from Kennedy’s interview with Vucevic:

  • The 7-footer is focused on expanding his 3-point game in a league that increasingly demands that big men stretch the floor. Vucevic didn’t venture out much to the 3-point line until last season, when he averaged 3.6 attempts per game and connected on 31.4% of them. “This is something that I’ve wanted to add to my game to help our team get better, so I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for me this summer. I’ll continue to focus on that. I’ll also be playing with my national team, and I’ll continue to work on that while I’m with them.”
  • Vucevic had dinner with new coach Steve Clifford and was very impressed by the ex-Hornets head man. “You can tell he knows the game really well. He’s really creative. He’s going to do a really good job of putting our guys in positions to be successful and making us better. Everything we talked about throughout our conversation was very positive.”
  • Forward Aaron Gordon‘s steady improvement was a product of hard work, rather than simply his athleticism, according to Vucevic. “He works as hard as any guy on our team – if not harder. He’s always showing up early and staying late. … Some people may think he’s just a freak athlete, but they don’t realize how much work he has put in to improve the way he has year after year, especially this past season.”

Magic Notes: Clifford, Stackhouse, Sampson

The Magic officially decided on their new head coach this week, announcing the hiring of former Hornets coach Steve Clifford on Wednesday. Clifford reportedly agreed to a four-year contract to become Frank Vogel‘s replacement in Orlando.

As Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel details, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond – who interviewed Clifford for the Bucks’ job in Milwaukee back in 2013 – met with him twice this time around. The first of those meetings happened on May 16, with the second taking place on May 24. Weltman and Hammond liked what they heard in those sessions, and their deal with Clifford reflects that — the final year isn’t a team option, sources tell Robbins.

“I’m not betting on something that I don’t know,” Weltman said on Wednesday. “Steve Clifford has proven himself to be an elite-level NBA coach in addition to having great personal skills, player-development abilities [and] all the organizational bullet points that we had hoped to address.”

Here’s more on the Magic’s new coach and the search that led the team to him:

  • Despite being rumored to have significant interest in Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse, the Magic never interviewed Stackhouse, sources tell Robbins.
  • University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, cited as a Magic candidate, confirmed that he met with the club “multiple times,” as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston relays. However, Sampson said that he’ll remain at his current job with the University of Houston.
  • Before hiring Clifford, the Magic made plays for “some big fish in the collegiate ranks,” according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). One of those targets was presumably Tom Izzo, as the Michigan State head coach was linked to Orlando last week.
  • One possible factor in the Magic’s decision to hire Clifford? His impressive work in games against Orlando. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer notes, Clifford’s Hornets had defeated the Magic 11 times in a row prior to his ouster in Charlotte.

Magic Hire Steve Clifford As Head Coach

The Magic are hiring Steve Clifford to be their new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. League sources tell Wojnarowski that Orlando has reached an agreement on a four-year contract with the former Hornets coach. Meanwhile, the team has confirmed the deal in a press release.

According to Wojnarowski, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman views Clifford as the right combination of “tactical coach, teacher, and disciplinarian for a young, developing roster.” Clifford met with a team ownership group on Tuesday and is expected to be officially introduced at a press conference on Wednesday, Woj adds.

[RELATED: Five Key Offseason Questions: Orlando Magic]

Widely respected in coaching circles, Clifford led the Hornets to a 196-214 (.478) record over five years, including back-to-back 36-46 seasons before he was dismissed last month. Prior to taking over as head coach of the Hornets, Clifford held a number of NBA assistant jobs, including one in Orlando from 2007 to 2012 under Stan Van Gundy, so this is a reunion of sorts for him.

Clifford, who was let go by Charlotte at season’s end, expressed a desire to coach again next season and interviewed for the Suns’ and Bucks’ jobs before they hired Igor Kokoskov and Mike Budenholzer, respectively.

The former Hornets head coach missed 21 games last season due to sleep deprivation and severe headaches, but Wojnarowski indicates that Clifford is in good health now, and Orlando’s doctors are confident that he’s ready to resume the “full-time grind.”

Having assumed control of Orlando’s front office in 2017, Weltman and GM John Hammond are looking to put their own stamp on the organization after firing Frank Vogel at the end of the regular season. According to Wojnarowski, Weltman and Hammond had interest in hiring Clifford five years ago when both executives were members of the Bucks’ front office. However, he landed with the Hornets instead at that time.

No team’s coaching search this spring has lasted longer than the Magic’s, as the club spent nearly seven weeks seeking out Vogel’s replacement. The franchise will bet on Clifford being a long-term solution on its bench after having gone through four other head coaches since Van Gundy’s departure in 2012.

The Magic didn’t publicly confirm which candidates they were interviewing for their head coaching vacancy during their lengthy search. However, University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, and Spurs assistant Ime Udoka were among the contenders who reportedly interviewed for the position. Orlando also met with David Fizdale before he was hired by the Knicks.

The Pistons and Raptors are now the only two teams still on the lookout for new head coaches, as our tracker shows.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Magic To Interview Steve Clifford

The Magic’s long, deliberate search for a new head coach will continue this week, as the team is set to interview former Hornets coach Steve Clifford, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Clifford, who was let go by Charlotte at season’s end, expressed a desire to coach again next season and interviewed for the Suns’ and Bucks’ jobs before they hired Igor Kokoskov and Mike Budenholzer, respectively. Before leading the Hornets to a 196-214 (.478) record over five seasons, Clifford held a number of NBA assistant jobs, including one in Orlando from 2007 to 2012.

Although the Magic’s head coaching search has already lasted nearly a month and a half, Clifford is only the third candidate confirmed to have interviewed with the club. Orlando has been mum on its search for Frank Vogel‘s replacement, with Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool and Spurs assistant Ime Udoka representing the only interviewees whose names had surfaced before today.

Still, it’s possible that the Magic have spoken or met with more candidates. University of Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson has been repeatedly cited as a contender for the position, but it’s not clear if he has formally interviewed with the franchise. (Update: Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel indicates that the Magic have interviewed Sampson.)

The Magic are one of three NBA teams still on the lookout for a new head coach, joining the Raptors and Pistons. We’re tracking the latest updates on those coaching searches right here.

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Casey, Bucks, Knicks

As we relayed in our story on Dwane Casey‘s firing earlier today, it didn’t take long for one outside candidate to be linked to the Raptors‘ head coaching job, with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski both reporting that Mike Budenholzer is a name to watch.

Budenholzer’s name continues to surface in relation to the Raptors’ newly-opened coaching position. Sources confirmed to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) that Toronto is expected to pursue Budenholzer, while Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) hears from coaching sources that Raptors president Masai Ujiri has “strong interest” in the former Hawks head coach.

As we wait to see if Budenholzer emerges as the favorite for the Raptors’ job, let’s round up more coaching rumors and notes from around the NBA…

  • According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link), Casey – who had one year left on his contract – sought an extension from the Raptors before he was let go. Zillgitt speculates that stance may have forced Ujiri’s hand.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide updates on the Bucks‘ coaching search, writing that the first round of interviews should wrap up this week. Milwaukee has interviewed Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, and Joe Prunty so far, and still has meetings lined up with David Blatt and Becky Hammon. GM Jon Horst figures to narrow the team’s list to three or four finalists, at which point team ownership will get involved in the process.
  • A source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Jerry Stackhouse “interviews well” for coaching jobs, but “does rub some people the wrong way.” Stackhouse entered the offseason as a popular rising head coaching candidate, but has yet to gain traction for any open jobs. In fact, despite a mid-April report indicating Stackhouse would meet with the Magic, that interview has yet to happen, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
  • New Knicks head coach David Fizdale is expected to hire Nick Van Exel to join his staff in New York, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Like Keith Smart, who is also reportedly set to join the Knicks, Van Exel was on Fizdale’s staff in Memphis.