Steve Clifford

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.

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Ball, Pacers, Pistons

Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has talked to president of basketball operations Koby Altman about possible additions to his coaching staff, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber-only link), who says Bickerstaff keeps a running list of potential targets that he adds to every year.

Sources tell Fedor that Bickerstaff would be looking for a well-rounded candidate with experience, and wouldn’t necessarily be seeking an offensive coordinator. Fedor identifies Steve Clifford, Paul Hewitt, Chad Forcier, Tyrone Corbin, and David Fizdale as some names to watch, though some of those coaches may not be inclined to leave their current positions for an assistant role with the Cavaliers.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Longtime Chicago media personality David Kaplan said during his ESPN 1000 radio show that the Bulls‘ front office has “serious concerns” about Lonzo Ball‘s left knee injury and that the issue could impact how the team approaches its offseason (link via NBC Sports Chicago). There have been no concrete updates on Ball’s troublesome knee injury since he said in late April that his rehab was “kind of at a standstill” and that he planned to visit a specialist.
  • The Pacers could end up picking anywhere from No. 1 to No. 9 as a result of Tuesday’s draft lottery, but one thing is certain: Indiana will have its first top-10 pick since 1989. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Insider link) takes a look at the end of an unusually long streak, which Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard calls an “exciting opportunity” for the franchise.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic looks at some potential second-round targets the Pistons could consider at No. 46, starting with Alabama wing Keon Ellis.

Kings To Make Head Coaching Decision By Week’s End?

The Kings, who are completing a second round of interviews with the three finalists for their head coaching job, are expected to make a decision by the end of the week, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic.

According to Amick, Mark Jackson and Steve Clifford have completed their final interviews, while Mike Brown had an informal visit with Kings officials on Wednesday and will have his formal sit-down with the team on Thursday.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report stated earlier this week that Jackson appears to be team owner Vivek Ranadive‘s preferred choice for the position, and Amick has heard the same thing from sources close to the situation. However, the Kings insist Ranadive isn’t putting his thumb on the scale and that general manager Monte McNair will be given the opportunity to make the final decision, says Amick.

There have been recent reports indicating that McNair has been given more authority and power in the Kings’ organization than previous heads of basketball operations under Ranadive. Amick suggests that the team’s decision to let Joe Dumars walk rather than promoting him to a level above McNair is a signal that Ranadive is showing support for his GM.

One of three teams currently seeking a new head coach, the Kings appear on track to finalize a hire before the Hornets or Lakers complete their respective searches.

Mark Jackson Frontrunner To Become New Kings Coach?

The Kings are interviewing the three finalistsMark Jackson, Steve Clifford and Mike Brown — for their vacant head coaching position this week, and it looks as if one might have the upper hand. League sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report that Jackson appears to be the frontrunner for the job and the favored choice of owner Vivek Ranadive.

Ranadive, who was the vice chairman of the Warriors when Jackson was their head coach from 2011-14, has long been an admirer of Jackson and pushed Sacramento’s front office to consider him for the lead assistant/associate head coach position that ultimately went to Alvin Gentry in 2020, sources tell Fischer.

It has been previously reported that the Kings are searching for a defensive-minded coach with previous head coaching experience, and all three finalists check those boxes. However, Ranadive is said to be looking for a vocal, public face for the franchise to create a day-to-day identity, according to Fischer, who notes that Jackson is popular among players.

A report last month indicated that LeBron James would be “enthused” to see Jackson as a candidate for the Lakers‘ vacancy, and sources tell Fischer that LaMelo Ball also favors Jackson for the Hornets‘ opening.

One major wrinkle to the notion that Jackson appears to be the favored choice of Ranadive is that the owner has repeatedly told colleagues around the league that general manager Monte McNair has full authority over the team’s basketball operations. Fischer points out that the decision to fire Luke Walton early in the season came from McNair, not Ranadive.

McNair appears to be leaning toward Brown as his top candidate for the position, multiple sources tell Fischer. Brown also has Warriors ties – he has been an assistant coach for Golden State for the past six years – and used to work with Kings assistant GM Wes Wilcox when the two were with Cleveland.

Fischer writes that if Jackson isn’t selected for the position, it could be partly because Joe Dumars left the organization to work in the league office — Dumars wanted to hire Jackson to become Detroit’s head coach in 2011. Dumors reportedly wanted more control over Sacramento’s front office, with McNair reporting to him instead of Ranadive, but the owner wasn’t interested in that arrangement.

As for former interim head coach Gentry, sources tell Bleacher Report that he’s been offered a role in Sacramento’s front office, but Gentry is looking into pursuing a job as a consultant, similar to the role Clifford recently held with the Nets.