Steve Clifford

Southeast Notes: Robinson, Dedmon, Lowry, Clifford, Krejci

Two-way player Orlando Robinson may have passed Dewayne Dedmon on the depth chart as the Heat‘s backup center. Robinson finished Sunday’s one-point loss to Brooklyn with six points, nine rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes, while Dedmon didn’t play due to coach’s decision for the first time this season. The Heat outscored the Nets by 24 points with Robinson on the court, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald notes.

“I thought he just gave us great minutes,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Even when we had to take (Bam Adebayo) out in the fourth quarter, that could have been an emotional downer, like a real buzz kill. But O had been playing really well and when I turned to him, everybody else was like: ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ He’s earned the minutes and I think the way he was really sprinting to the rim on some of the pick-and-rolls and creating a little bit of confusion, really helped us generate some clean looks.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Heat guard Kyle Lowry has been downgraded to out for Tuesday’s game against the Thunder, Chiang tweets. The Heat have a number of injury concerns. Rotation players Caleb Martin (left quadriceps strain) and Duncan Robinson (finger surgery) have also been ruled out, while Tyler Herro (left Achilles soreness) and Adebayo (right wrist contusion) are questionable.
  • Steve Clifford returned for a second stint as the Hornets’ head coach to take them to the next level. The way the season has played out, he now has the task of developing the young players during a rough season. Clifford spoke of trying to strike that balance in a Q&A with Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer in a subscriber-required story. “We need to win and develop these young guys. And definitely this is really a different roster than what we thought it would be, particularly when I first got here,” Clifford said. “But at the end of the day being adaptable as a coach is a big deal, and you want to be the right coach for the team that you are coaching.”
  • Vit Krejci had his contract for this season guaranteed by the Hawks over the weekend when he remained on the roster. Krejci is grateful the front office decided to keep him around, as he told Lauren Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Yeah, it’s a good feeling,” Krejci said. “You know, I worked really hard to be in this position. And I’m glad that the team trusts me and the coaches and the staff, everybody trusts me. So, I’m really happy for that.” Krejci has appeared in 17 games this season.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Clifford, Irving, NBPA, Durant

Ben Simmons missed the Nets‘ last four games with a knee problem, but the mental health issues that contributed to his 16-month absence appear to be under control. In an interview with Konrad Marshall of The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, Simmons said being traded to Brooklyn in February gave him a much-needed fresh start.

“I had a terrible year,” he said, “so I know how to handle my emotions and what I need to be doing to get on track. If I’m worried or sad or frustrated or angry, I feel like I’m better able to deal with that now. It took time, but I’m at peace with who I am and what’s going on around me. I know what my priorities are, and what I need to do every day. Besides that, I just want to be me.”

Simmons admits a degree of responsibility for everything that went wrong when he was with the Sixers, but he feels like he didn’t have the support of team leaders. He refers to coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid and their failure to defend him after losing a series to the Hawks in 2021.

“I definitely didn’t handle it the right way after the season, but there’s two sides,” Simmons said. “Your teammates are supposed to have your back. Your coaches are supposed to have your back. And I didn’t have that at all.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, who spent last season as a consultant with the Nets, defended Steve Nash‘s performance in the face of difficult circumstances, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Clifford pointed to the high number of missed games by key players last season and said he hopes Nash will visit Charlotte later this season to offer advice. “There’s always things you can do better as a coach, but the problem there was not coaching,” Clifford said. “Nor receptiveness to the way we did things. I totally disagree with any of that and sometimes it’s just health.” (Twitter link)
  • The players’ union plans to meet with Kyrie Irving to address his latest controversy, the Celtics’ Grant Williams, an NBPA vice president like Irving, told Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis also talked to Wizards forward Deni Avdija, who’s believed to be the league’s only Jewish player, about Irving’s decision to promote an antisemitic film. “I think he [made] a mistake. But you need to understand that he gives [an] example to people. People look up to him,” Avdija said. “You can think whatever you want, you can do whatever you want. I don’t think it’s right to go out in public and publish it, and let little kids that follow you see it, and the generation to come after to think like that.”
  • The Nets have back-to-back road wins since Irving’s suspension was announced, and Kevin Durant suggested that sometimes the games can be a relief from other distractions, Lewis tweets. “Everybody was just waiting to get back to playing,” Durant said. “We also lost three or four games before that, so we just felt some pride and wanted to come out here and get some W’s. So it’s good for our character.”

Southeast Notes: Wright, Carter, Hampton, Bogdanovic, Clifford

With veteran guard Delon Wright sidelined indefinitely due to a strained right hamstring, the Wizards missed his perimeter defense in a 127-117 loss to the Pacers Friday night, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Though the 6’5″ combo guard is averaging a modest 6.5 PPG, 3.3 APG and 2.5 RPG in his four games with Washington, he gives the team size as a reserve guard and wing toughness that it had lacked last season, Hughes opines.

“It’s tough,” shooting guard Bradley Beal said of life without Wright. “You could see it tonight because he’s a pest on defense, he gets us those deflections. He’s just everywhere. He’s a pest. He gets in on the bigs, he gets those reach-ins, a lot of those things. He gets into the ball. Really good defender.”

The 30-year-old out of Utah signed a two-year, $16MM deal with Washington during the offseason. He suffered a grade two hamstring strain, and is expected to be unavailable for six-to-eight weeks. Hughes thinks that Beal, Monte Morris, and Will Barton will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball in the absence of Wright, as will small forward Deni Avdija, who has emerged as a versatile defender thus far, capable of defending smaller backcourt players.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Magic starting center Wendell Carter Jr. has made a representation change. Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel tweets that the 6’10” big man has inked a new deal with LIFT Sports Management. Meanwhile, Price reports in a separate piece that Carter’s Orlando teammate R.J. Hampton is departing LIFT after the Magic opted not to exercise its team option on his fourth season.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic is gradually moving through his recovery process from a May knee surgery. Atlanta is excited about the progress Bogdanovic has managed to make through his rehabilitation thus far, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m back to the court activities, and I feel good, just a little out of basketball shape,” Bogdanovic told Williams. “You know, I need a rhythm back, you know, change of direction, explosive moves. But now I’m focusing on that.” Retired Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver, now the team’s director of player affairs and development, has made himself available to Bogdanovic so that the current Atlanta wing can tweak the mechanics of his shooting form post-surgery. “He helped me a lot, you know, especially through the challenging times, where I couldn’t, like, figure it out, how to make that transition, from use, to what I’m doing in the weightlifting room with the strength coaches, and everybody else, (physical therapy), how to translate it on the court,” Bogdanovic said.
  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford can be credited at least in part with the club’s solid 3-3 start to the 2022/23 season, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “I think Steve is one of the most underrated coaches in the league,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “His defensive schemes are really sharp. He always does some interesting things against us to make us think, to make us work for baskets. His teams tend to execute really well on the offensive side.” Clifford’s players appreciate the organization he is bringing to bear for the club during his second go-around running the show. “He communicates very well on what he wants from us, and if we don’t do that he holds us accountable,” Kelly Oubre said. “That’s everything in this league because obviously we have a young team, but at the end of the day we are trying to grow and learn and be the best in our profession.”

Eastern Notes: Mobley, Bridges, Clifford, Rose, Grimes

Cavaliers second-year forward Evan Mobley will miss one-to-two weeks due to a right ankle sprain, the team tweets. He’ll undergo a period of treatment and rehab before returning to action.

The Cavaliers open the regular season on Oct. 19 against Toronto, so it remains to be seen whether Mobley will be ready to go by that point. Mobley appeared in 69 regular season games during his rookie year.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets did not extend the deadline for Miles Bridges‘ $7,921,300 qualifying offer, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on The Rally TV show (Twitter link). Charlotte had an Oct. 1 cutoff date to extend the offer or allow it to expire. However, Bridges remains a restricted free agent. Bridges’ legal issues have made his free agency a moot point at this stage.
  • Steve Clifford, who is in his second stint as the Hornets’ coach, said he did a “poor job” in his most recent season with Charlotte, he told Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The 2017/18 team won 36 games and failed to make the playoffs. “That was a team I did a poor job with as much as anything, because we had always been good defensively, and I thought if we could get better on offense we’d really have a chance to be good,” Clifford said. “We spent training camp doing a ton of offense, and we were never good defensively.”
  • Derrick Rose played just 26 games last season due to ankle issues that required surgery but the Knicks guard vows to stay on the court this season, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “I feel very healthy,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to play in a lot of games — I mean, I know I’m going to play in a lot of games this year. … I feel lighter. I’m moving a lot better. I’m not worried about my shot. My shot looks great.”
  • Quentin Grimes won’t play in the Knicks’ preseason game against Detroit on Tuesday due to a foot injury, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets.

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Ball, Harrell, F. Wagner

A lot changed in the three years that Steve Clifford was away from the Hornets, but the most significant move has been the addition of LaMelo Ball, who appears destined for stardom after being selected with the third pick in the 2020 draft. In an interview with Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, Clifford talked about the opportunity to coach one of the league’s best young players.

“(With) player development, the misconception is they only get better when they are young,” he said. “The better players have a goal, have a plan for every summer to get better no matter how old they are. And that’s what he’s doing. He has his things in different areas that he’s been working on.

“But I think the biggest thing for him — and I think he would tell you the same thing — is team success. The best players ultimately in our league are always judged by how well their team does. And I know he’s motivated for us to be a playoff team, which would be a good step. And I think in talking with him, that seems to be his vision.”

Ball earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2021 and followed that up with his first All-Star appearance last season while averaging 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists. He has already impressed Clifford with his offseason work ethic.

“He’s been great. He’s been here almost the whole summer,” Clifford said. “He likes to be in the gym. He works hard both on the court and in the weight room. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him, and I think that he’s ready or in a good place to get off to a good start. I mean, I think he’s done all the right things this summer, and I’ve been really impressed with him.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After Montrezl Harrell agreed to a contract with the Sixers, he tweeted a message of thanks for being able to spend time with the Hornets in his home state. Harrell is headed to his sixth NBA team a few months after Charlotte acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. “Blessed to have played for my home state,” he wrote, “only was 20-25 games but being back in the NC state was a blessing!”
  • Magic forward Franz Wagner is questionable for the EuroBasket quarterfinals after twisting his ankle in Germany’s win on Saturday, according to Eurohoops. Wagner didn’t return to the game after suffering the injury in the third quarter. There has been no official word on his status for Germany’s next game on Tuesday.
  • In case you missed it, we looked at the over/under totals for the Southeast Division this week and examined the extension case for Heat guard Tyler Herro.

Eastern Notes: Clifford, Pistons, Smart, Raptors, Sixers

Although the Hornets fired him as head coach following the 2017/18 season, Steve Clifford still had a good relationship with general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Michael Jordan, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Those ties resulted in Clifford getting his old job back after Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson pulled out of an agreement to coach the team.

“You want to evolve and get better at what you do,” Clifford said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “I have coached a lot more games than I had when I was here the first time and worked with another team. You learn a lot from that.”

Clifford was brought in to fix a defense that ranked 22nd in the league this season, and he told reporters that will be an emphasis. Clifford doesn’t plan major changes to the offense, which will continue with a fast-paced philosophy led by LaMelo Ball.

“We are going to play offensively with a very similar emphasis that they have played with the last couple of years,” Clifford said. “Offense starts with playing through the strengths of your best players and Ball is a great talent with a passion for the game and a flair for playing in the open court and we want to take advantage of that.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Acquiring Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks from the Knicks will give the Pistons greater flexibility next offseason, observes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Detroit will have team options on both players for 2023/24 and can create $19MM in cap room by letting them go. With Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo both on expiring contracts, Kelly Olynyk holding a $3MM partial guarantee and DeAndre Jordan‘s $7.9MM in dead money coming off the books, the Pistons should have north of $45MM in cap space for 2023, Edwards writes.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart barely notices anymore when he’s the subject of trade talks, tweets basketball writer Mark Murphy. “Every year my name is in talks, and I’m still here,” Smart said. “I’m still the longest tenured Celtic. So I take it as a compliment. It means you’re valued pretty high and if your name is talked about people want you. But I don’t pay much attention.”
  • The Raptors are expected to target centers in free agency with Isaiah Hartenstein and Thomas Bryant being players to watch, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines the Sixers‘ options in free agency and looks at how James Harden‘s option decision will impact the team’s cap situation.

Southeast Notes: Clifford, Hornets, Davis, Heat

Steve Clifford, who is now embarking on a second stint with the Hornets, signed a three-year contract with a team option in the final year, sources tell Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Clifford will earn $4MM in each of the next two seasons, Boone adds.

In case you missed it, you can find our full story on Clifford’s hiring right here.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Hiring Clifford for a second time is just wild enough to work, argues Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer. The Hornets made the playoffs twice in Clifford’s first five-year stint with the team, and in 10 years prior and four years since, the team has only made the postseason one time, says Fowler, who notes that Clifford’s work ethic, professionalism and honesty are all admirable traits. According to Fowler, Clifford “always had a good relationship” with owner Michael Jordan, and he didn’t burn any bridges when he was fired in 2018, leading to the unexpected possibility of bringing him back.
  • Johnny Davis, the 10th pick of the draft by the Wizards, hopes to make a lasting impact in the NBA, writes Austen Tealer of WashingtonWizards.com. “I want to leave a legacy of being a great teammate and a winner, that’s the main goal,” Davis said. “I want to win an NBA championship whenever I can.” For his short-term goals, Davis hopes to become a regular part of the rotation and help the club make the playoffs, per Tealer.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald considers possible fallback options if the Heat can’t re-sign forward P.J. Tucker. Taurean Prince, Thaddeus Young and T.J. Warren are a few free agents on Jackson’s list, among others. Tucker is declining his $7.35MM player option to be come an unrestricted free agent, and he’s said to have several suitors outside of Miami.

Hornets Hire Steve Clifford As Head Coach

6:27pm: The Hornets have officially named Clifford their head coach, per a team press release.

We are pleased to welcome Steve back to our franchise,” said Kupchak. “We believe that his previous experience and coaching philosophy make him the best coach for our team. Steve has a proven track record of improving defenses and is detail oriented. He has a history of maximizing players’ talent and working with them to develop and expand their skill sets. Steve is committed to playing with the same offensive pace that our fans are accustomed to seeing the last few years. We are confident that he will be able to help our young players continue to grow as we look to take the next step as a team.”


4:33pm: The Hornets are hiring Steve Clifford to be their head coach for a second time, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Marc Stein reported yesterday morning that Clifford had unexpectedly emerged as a serious candidate to replace James Borrego, who was fired after the team lost in the play-in tournament for the second consecutive season. Roderick Boone and Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer reported this morning that Clifford met with GM Mitch Kupchak and owner Michael Jordan earlier this week.

Clifford will receive a “multi-year” contract, Boone tweets.

The Hornets were reportedly looking for a veteran head coach who could help improve the team’s defense, and Clifford has a long-held reputation as one of the better defensive tacticians in the league. Across his eight seasons as a head coach, Clifford’s clubs were top 10 in defensive rating five times.

Clifford, 60, previously coached the Hornets from 2013-18, compiling an overall record of 196-214. He took the club to the postseason in 2014 and 2016 — those are Charlotte’s only playoff appearances since 2010.

After his stint with the Hornets, Clifford was hired by Orlando to be their head coach, accumulating a 96-131 record from 2018-2021, including a couple of postseason trips in his first two seasons. His overall record with the Magic is a little deceptive, as Orlando pivoted into a full rebuild in his final season, when the team went 21-51.

Clifford was a long-time assistant prior to becoming a head coach, with stops in New York, Houston, Orlando and Los Angeles from 2000-2013. He was a consultant with the Nets last season.

Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, formerly the head coach of the Nets, had previously reached an agreement to become the Hornets’ new coach, but backed out of the deal and never signed the contract, thus re-starting the club’s coaching search.

Mike D’Antoni, who was said to be meeting with Jordan this week, was reportedly a finalist during both searches. There were conflicting reports on whether Terry Stotts was also a finalist before the team reached a deal with Atkinson — Stein wrote that D’Antoni was the “only other known finalist” at that point, but other outlets suggested he was still in the mix late in the process.

Hornets Notes: Williams, Coaching Search, McGowens

The Hornets were considering three centers heading into Thursday’s draft, but Duke’s Mark Williams was at the top of their list, writes Varun Shankar of The Charlotte Observer. Williams opened eyes with his measurements at the draft combine and will have the longest standing reach in the NBA at 9’9″. General manager Mitch Kupchak likes the idea of Williams catching lob passes from LaMelo Ball, but he said the 20-year-old big man needs to improve as a rebounder and add strength to get ready for the next level.

“He has a lot of work in getting stronger and I don’t have any doubt that he’ll work hard and get in the weight room,” Kupchak said. “He’s a good rebounder, I wouldn’t say that he’s gonna be our rebound monster right now, but I think if he gets stronger, I think he can become an excellent rebounder.”

The Hornets actually drafted Memphis center Jalen Duren first, but he was traded to the Knicks and ultimately to the Pistons. Charlotte received a protected first-round pick and four second-rounders in return, and Kupchak explained that the team wasn’t comfortable adding two more rookies after having three on the roster this season.

“We didn’t feel using both picks was prudent,” he said.

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • Kupchak also spoke about Kenny Atkinson‘s decision to reconsider his agreement to become the Hornets’ next head coach, per Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Kupchak has been discussing the situation with owner Michael Jordan and indicated the organization may consider some new possibilities. “We have spent a lot of time going over candidates, maybe some new candidates and making sure we cover our bases,” Kupchak said. “We have never felt the need to rush this process. We want to pick the right coach — and we thought we did.”
  • Former Hornets head coach Steve Clifford met with Kupchak and Jordan this week and is now considered to be a serious candidate for the position, sources tell Roderick Boone and Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer. Jordan also met with Mike D’Antoni, who was considered the runner-up when the offer was made to Atkinson.
  • Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens, whom Charlotte traded up to draft at No. 40, is likely to be given a two-way contract, Boone tweets.

Stein’s Latest: Clifford, Hornets, Pistons, Jazz, More

As the Hornets resume their head coaching search following Kenny Atkinson‘s decision to back out of an agreement with the team, Marc Stein suggests in his latest Substack column that a surprising name may be on Charlotte’s radar.

According to Stein, there’s some “serious mounting buzz” that Steve Clifford, who coached the Hornets from 2013-18, has emerged as a candidate to replace James Borrego. Charlotte is reportedly in the market for a candidate with previous head coaching experience and is certainly familiar with Clifford. He took the club to the postseason in 2014 and 2016 — those are the Hornets’ only playoff appearances since 2010.

Mike D’Antoni, who was said to be meeting with Hornets owner Michael Jordan this week, was a finalist during the initial search appears to still be in contention for the job. There have been conflicting reports on whether Terry Stotts was also a finalist before the team reached a deal with Atkinson — Stein writes that D’Antoni was the “only other known finalist” at that point.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Confirming that the Pistons are expected to pursue Suns RFA center Deandre Ayton, Stein says Ayton would embrace the idea of teaming up with Cade Cunningham in Detroit. Stein adds that Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton are believed to be ahead of Jalen Brunson on the Pistons’ list of other potential free agent targets. Both Bridges and Sexton will be restricted free agents, while Brunson will be unrestricted.
  • There’s an increasing belief in coaching circles that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge would like to hire an up-and-coming first-time head coach to replace Quin Snyder, according to Stein, who identifies Celtics assistant Will Hardy and Suns assistant Kevin Young as candidates who have impressed Utah so far.
  • After writing on Wednesday that the Sixers would be the favorites to sign P.J. Tucker if the forward leaves the Heat, Stein says today that Philadelphia’s impending pursuit of Tucker has the “strong backing” of star center Joel Embiid.
  • In addition to OG Anunoby, the Trail Blazers maintain interest in Thunder swingman Luguentz Dort, says Stein. Portland’s interest in Dort was previously reported. Portland’s No. 7 overall pick could be in play as the team seeks an upgrade on the wing.