Steve Clifford

Southeast Notes: Magic, Hornets, Heat

Speaking to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said that he and his staff are using the NBA’s layoff to “refresh mentally,” but admits he has spending some time every day on film study.

“You do get to watch film at a more leisurely pace when you don’t have a game coming up the next day, and there are certainly things that you can learn,” the Magic head coach said. “That will be part of all of our time. Then we’ll just start to plan for when, hopefully, we get to get back together.”

Clifford also spoke to Robbins about a handful of other topics, including how frequently he’s communicating with Magic players during the hiatus, the strides Markelle Fultz has taken this season, and the possibility of getting Al-Farouq Aminu and/or Jonathan Isaac back when play restarts. Clifford was noncommittal on potential return timelines for Aminu and Isaac.

“If those guys should come back, or one of them, obviously, that’d be great,” he said of the Magic’s injured forwards. “Both of them have been with us (on recent road trips and rehabbing at our facility). It would be like adding a new player from a talent standpoint.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Carter, Crowder, Robinson

Magic coach Steve Clifford was at practice with his team yesterday after a health scare Friday night in Minnesota, writes Jenny Dial Creech of The Athletic. Clifford had to leave the game against the Timberwolves in the third quarter after feeling dizzy. He was taken to a local hospital and diagnosed with dehydration.

“I’ve been sick for a few days and I realize now that I didn’t eat at all (Friday),” Clifford explained. “I started to get busy with the game and then when it was going on, I was OK. Then it just got really bad and I knew I needed to leave. Once I got on an IV at the hospital, I started to feel better.”

Health is a constant concern for the 58-year-old, who underwent heart surgery in 2013 and took a leave from coaching in 2017, citing severe exhaustion. He said he got plenty of messages from players and coaches Friday night, including a “stern lecture” from Stan Van Gundy.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Vince Carter is receiving farewells around the league during his final NBA season, but the Hawks‘ veteran said last night’s tribute in Memphis was special, relays Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Carter spent three seasons with the Grizzlies and reached the playoffs each year. “It was a great time in my career. This city is different than a lot of places that I’ve been” he said. “They really embrace the players and what they tried to do with the Grit and Grind mentality is a staple not just on the floor but in the city.”
  • Heat forward Jae Crowder has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol after colliding with Zion Williamson during Friday’s game with the Pelicans, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Crowder has been a valuable addition to Miami since being acquired at the trade deadline, averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 12 games.
  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks wants newly acquired guard Jerome Robinson to be more aggressive in getting shots up, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Robinson has started the past two games and Brooks believes he will make better decisions as he gets more minutes. “(The Clippers) are a playoff team last year and a championship (contending) team this year,” Brooks said. “So he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. … They’re a veteran team, so they probably weren’t practicing a lot. So he’s just getting some rhythm now. I don’t know where it’s gonna end up. I’m looking forward to keeping working with him and seeing where he gets to the rest of the season.”

Magic Coach Clifford Hospitalized, Released After Falling Ill

Magic head coach Steve Clifford left the team’s bench during the third quarter of Friday’s 132-118 win over the Timberwolves after experiencing dizziness, per ESPN. Clifford underwent preliminary tests at Target Center before he was evaluated and later released from Hennepin County Medical Center.

The Magic announced that Clifford was diagnosed with dehydration and has been cleared to resume his coaching duties. Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin filled in for Clifford following his early departure.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted (Twitter link), Clifford had two stents placed in his heart in 2013, but there’s no indication the episode was heart-related.

“It was really crazy,” Orlanda guard Markelle Fultz said after seeing Clifford leave. “At first. I thought he was just going to use the bathroom. I seen him kind of walk off, but when I came out they told me he wasn’t feeling well.”

Luckily, it appears Clifford dodged something serious and should be back on the Magic bench sooner rather than later. At 28-35, Orlando occupies the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Magic are back in action Sunday night against the Rockets, so presumably Clifford will be back on the sidelines for that contest.

Southeast Notes: Young, Ennis, Clifford, Curry

The Hawks brought in a major acquisition ahead of last Thursday’s trade deadline, trading for center Clint Capela in a four-team deal that featured 12 different players.

General manager Travis Schlenk also traded Jabari Parker and Alex Len to Sacramento in exchange for Dewayne Dedmon and a pair of second round-picks, later acquiring Skal Labissiere and cash from Portland for a 2024 second-round pick.

The deals received high praise from observers around the league, none more important than one figure in particular: All-Star point guard Trae Young.

“It’s hard to tell because we haven’t played with each other,” Young said when asked how good this current group of players could be, as relayed by Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I think once we play with each other well really be able to feel if it’s going good. Everyone wants instant gratification and instantly knowing what’s going to happen and what we should expect, but we really don’t know until we play with each other. I feel like it’s going to be great for us but I don’t really know until we play together.

“I definitely feel like a lot of teams made some good moves, but we are up there with making some of the biggest moves. We got some really good guys and I definitely think we are one of the winners of the trade deadline.”

Atlanta now sports a promising core of Young, Capela, Kevin Huerter and John Collins, along with young talents such as De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. The one major question remains how far this group could go in the improving Eastern Conference.

“I think we’re right there,” Young said. “I think we’re ready to make that jump.”

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic forward James Ennis hopes to find some stability with his new team, Luis Torres of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Ennis, a proven six-year NBA veteran, saw his playing time suddenly decrease in Philadelphia and was traded to Orlando in exchange for a second-round pick last week. Ennis consulted with family members and agent Scott Nichols of Rize Management before ultimately waiving his no-trade clause and accepting the trade. “It came down to what was best for me,” Ennis said. “I gave up a lot in the summer to go [back] to Philly so it was time for me to be selfish. When I saw Orlando wanted me, I was like, ‘I’m gonna go there.’ I feel like it’s a good fit.”
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford was fined $25,000 by the NBA for verbally abusing game officials, the league announced in a press release. The incident occurred at the end of the team’s loss in New York last Thursday.
  • Mavericks guard Seth Curry would welcome the opportunity to play in his hometown in Charlotte with the Hornets at some point in his career, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays. “I’d love to,” Curry said following the team’s win against Charlotte on Saturday. “If the opportunity came about, I would embrace it.” Curry’s contract with Dallas runs through 2023, so he’s expected to remain with the Mavs for the foreseeable future.

Eastern Notes: Drummond, Wagner, Fultz

Andre Drummond is averaging 21.3 points and 19.4 rebounds this season and Pistons head coach Dwane Casey believes the center can do more, as I relayed on Twitter.

“Andre is still a growing player. A lot of his game is evolving. He’s going to be able to other things. Every year, he’s going to bring something new to the table,” Casey said. “…he’s not even in the middle of his prime yet.”

Drummond will be one of the top players in a weak 2020 free agent class. He clearly has the talent to be an impact player, as he showcased while grabbing 24 rebounds against the Wizards. However, questions still remain about how much Drummond can contribute to a winning team.

His outstanding statistical game in Washington resulted in a 16-point loss. It’s the same story that has been recycled throughout his career. Entering year eight, he has been to the playoffs just two times (Detroit has been swept on both occasions) and it’s fair to wonder whether a team will view him as a max player or anywhere near it if he can’t elevate the Pistons in the win column.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Moritz Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-team trade this summer, had an impressive defensive game against Drummond on Monday. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link), during the 14 possessions Wagner guarded Drummond, Detroit’s big man went 1-for-8 and was blocked three times.
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford called Markelle Fultz‘s feel for the game unique, complimenting the point guard on his abilities, as Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel relays (Twitter link). “In many ways, I just think he’s a good all-around player because he has a feel for the game. He’s a terrific passer and his ability to get into the paint and have a feel for where everybody is very unique,” Clifford said.
  • Bruce Brown‘s ability to handle point guard duties is solving a problem for the Pistons, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. The team has been without Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose because of injuries.

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.”