Steve Clifford

Magic Notes: Vucevic, Ross, Clifford, Birch

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman knows he’ll have to fight off multiple suitors to retain Nikola Vucevic‘s services, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. While re-signing Vucevic is a priority, Weltman realizes there are teams with cap space that feel the same way.

“Vooch is going to have a lot of teams who will make him a priority for them, too. … Hopefully, we can get something done,” Weltman said. “You know, it’s the NBA, and as I always say, there’s a lot of real estate between the intentions and what gets done. But it is a priority for us.”

Vucevic is eligible for a max contract of five years and $189.7MM with the Magic or a four-year, $140.6MM deal with another franchise. Vucevic indicated he’s open to re-signing with Orlando as long as Weltman backs up his words.

“Everybody knows I’ve had a great seven years here,” he said. “But at the same time, we’ll see what happens. It’s a mutual decision, and it’s not just me.”

We have more on the Magic:

  • The team’s other prominent free agent, forward Terrence Ross, is also interested in returning, Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Ross enhanced his value this season by averaging 15.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG as the team’s sixth man while making a team-best 38.3% of his long range attempts. “It’s fun to be a part of an organization that is doing the right things … getting rewarded for it,” Ross said. “It would be great to be back, but we’ll see.”
  • Forward Aaron Gordon believes the hiring of coach Steve Clifford last season was the biggest factor in the team reaching the postseason, as he explained to John Denton of the team’s website. “I feel like we learned how to win, and that was one of the things that had been lacking here – a culture, a know-how and a standard,” Gordon said. “Coach (Clifford) did a great job of bringing that back and instilling it in us and teaching us what it means to win. And our guys did a great job of responding and coming out with tremendous fight.”
  • Vucevic’s future with the organization could impact whether it brings back center Khem Birch, as Robbins notes in his offseason outlook. The front office can make Birch a restricted free agent by extending a $1.82MM qualifying offer. If the Magic are confident they’ll re-sign Vucevic, Orlando might not give Birch that QO since it has Mohamed Bamba in place as Vucevic’s backup. Jerian Grant and Jarell Martin are also eligible for QOs but the Magic will almost certainly allow them to become unrestricted free agents, Robbins adds.

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.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Kaminsky, Magic, Waiters

Even after changing their coach and GM during the offseason, the Hornets haven’t solved the problem with roster depth that has plagued them for years, writes Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer. The team is struggling to find points off its bench, especially during a three-game losing streak that has dropped the Hornets to ninth in the playoff race.

“You look at our stat line — our starters vs. their starters — we won that game,” coach Jim Borrego said after Wednesday’s loss to Houston. “Our starters won the game tonight, gave us a chance, and I’ve just got to figure out what to do with the second unit.”

Borrego recently moved rookie Miles Bridges into the starting lineup in place of Jeremy Lamb, who is second on the team in scoring at 15.1 PPG. However, when Lamb is in the game, defenses are focusing on him and backup point guard Tony Parker because the rest of the reserve unit doesn’t have a dependable scorer. Malik Monk has made just one of 12 shots in the past four games and has fallen out of the rotation.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Frank Kaminsky accompanied the Hornets on their trip to Brooklyn for tonight’s game as a buyout looks increasingly unlikely, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Today marks the deadline for players to be waived and still have postseason eligibility with another team.
  • The Magic have learned how to handle adversity and the players are crediting new coach Steve Clifford for bringing toughness to the team, relays Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Orlando overcame a late deficit to surprise the Warriors last night, moving into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. “I think it starts at the top, with the toughness of Coach Cliff,” Jonathan Isaac said. “It definitely has trickled down. We definitely feel ourselves as a more resilient, more mentally tough team, because we work for it. We work hard. We come in every day, and we work towards being mentally tough, and it shows out there.”
  • Dion Waiters‘ return from injury hasn’t produced the spark the Heat were hoping for, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. He hasn’t bonded with Dwyane Wade, Winderman adds, and still hasn’t gotten his conditioning level where it needs to be.

Southeast Notes: Satoransky, Sibert, Clifford, McRae

Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky has become a starter due to John Wall‘s injuries but he still envisions returning to Spain later in his career, as he told ACB.com in a story relayed by Sportando. Satoransky played for two Spanish teams before joining the NBA.

“I have a lot of goals to accomplish in the NBA, but I always think that I would love to return to Spain,” the Wizards guard said. “I grew up there, I love the people and Spanish basketball. I love Spanish life and, one day, I would love to return to Liga Endesa (the Spanish league).”

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Shooting guard Jordan Sibert always believed he’d get an NBA contract, as he told Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Sibert, who went undrafted out of Dayton in 2015, finally got his chance when the Hawks offered a 10-day deal last week. He played in Greece and Germany along with the G League the last few years before Atlanta came calling. “I believed that I was talented to get it done,” Sibert said. “I just wanted to work every day, and if it happened, it happened. I get on my knees every day, and I thank God just for my daily blessings. This is just another one that I am thankful for.”
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford follows the coaching philosophy of former Pistons coach and executive Stan Van Gundy, according to John Denton of the team’s website. Clifford was an assistant when Van Gundy was head coach in Orlando. “Stan used to say, and we do this all the time, ‘We prepare for every game like it’s a playoff game.’ We go over 10 plays every game, while a lot of teams wait until the playoffs,” Clifford said. “Sometimes people want to say, ‘It’s a big game,’ but you prepare to play important games in September. … That’s the approach we’ve had all the way through.”
  • Wizards guard Jordan McRae is nearing the end of his 45-day NBA clock as a two-way player and he’s likely to spend more time in the G League to avoid reaching the limit, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington explains. The franchise would risk losing him or be forced to sign him to a standard contract if he doesn’t spend most of the next four weeks with the Capital City Go Go, Hughes continues. The team wants to retain McRae but it’s barely under the luxury tax threshold and doesn’t want to go over it by converting McRae’s contract, Hughes adds.

Eastern Notes: Porter, Fultz, Pacers

The Bulls acquired Otto Porter Jr. from the Wizards in exchange for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker and coach Jim Boylen is happy with the transaction.

“He’s just a basketball player. That’s what we needed, that’s what we got,” Boylen said (via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports). “What that means is you can throw him out there and he can get somebody else going, he can get himself going, he can make shots off the move.

“I think he showed the whole thing tonight. He showed a lot of versatility. I’m really thankful he’s a Bull.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford is using some his downtime to watch game tape of Markelle Fultz and analyze the point guard’s play, John Denton of NBA.com relays. Denton notes that Fultz will likely work with assistants Bruce Kreutzer and Steve Hetzel, two coaches whom Kemba Walker has previously credited with helping to improve his shot.
  • While Clifford can understand how a change of scenery may help Fultz, the coach believes Fultz’s jump shot will ultimately determine his success with the Magic, as Denton passes along in the same piece. “How you fit with your teammates is a big deal, and the best players can play with anybody in any system,’’ Clifford said. “To me, if you want to say a different city, new start, different teammates, things like that [might help Fultz]. But, to be frank, the issue has been [Fultz’s] shoulder and his shooting and if you’re not a range shooter, you’re not going to be a good pick-and-roll player. With that part, we’ll see.’’
  • Pacers forward Thaddeus Young was thrilled when he learned that the team was pursuing Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency in 2017, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. “I said Bogey is a walking bucket. He can score in different ways that people don’t even know,” said Young, who previously played alongside Bogdanovic in Brooklyn. “I learned a lot about Bogey. I’ll play any day with Bogey on any team.”

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.