Terry Stotts

Bjorkgren, Stotts, Budenholzer Among Coaches On Hot Seat

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Nate Bjorkgren‘s future as the Pacers‘ head coach is uncertain, and Shams Charania and Sam Amick echo that point in their latest report for The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, Bjorkgren’s “abrasive” style and a tendency to be controlling with assistants and other staff members has been a cause for concern.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that multiple Pacers players have expressed dissatisfaction with Bjorkgren this season, with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis among those who haven’t been on the same page with the first-year coach. Those same sources tell The Athletic that several Pacers players feel the analytical style Bjorkgren has employed doesn’t suit the team’s personnel.

The growing pains Bjorkgren has experienced in Indiana don’t necessarily mean that the Pacers will make a coaching change at season’s end, but the situation is worth keeping a close eye on, per Charania and Amick.

The two Athletic reporters also singled out a few other coaching situations worth watching around the NBA. Here are a few highlights from their report:

  • The Trail Blazers are increasingly likely to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts this offseason unless he can “pull a rabbit out of his hat” and make a deep playoff run, according to Charania and Amick. Sources tell The Athletic that Stotts has less player support this season than he has in past years. Charania and Amick identify Jason Kidd, Dave Joerger, Chauncey Billups, Brent Barry, and – if he becomes available – Nate McMillan as potential targets for Portland if the team makes a change.
  • There’s significant pressure on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer entering the postseason, according to Charania and Amick, who say Budenholzer’s job will be in serious danger if the team is eliminated in the first two rounds. Budenholzer has one year left on his contract after 2020/21, per The Athletic’s duo.
  • Luke Walton of the Kings and Scott Brooks of the Wizards are other coaches whose job security isn’t exactly rock solid, but Charania and Amick point to financial considerations in Sacramento and a recent hot streak in D.C. as factors working in favor of Walton and Brooks keeping their jobs. Walton has a strong relationship with Kings GM Monte McNair, while Brooks is well-liked in Washington, note Charania and Amick. Still, the long-term future of Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is also somewhat uncertain, which further clouds Brooks’ status.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Wiggins, Thunder, Nuggets

Damian Lillard has long been commended for his loyalty to the Trail Blazers, but Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports questions where that loyalty has gotten Lillard during what has been his most frustrating season. The veteran guard, who has repeatedly stated his desire to win a title in Portland, hasn’t played with an All-Star since 2015 and the team doesn’t appear to be moving any closer to contention — the Blazers’ recent 4-9 slide has them in play-in territory at No. 7 in the Western Conference.

Acquisitions like Robert Covington and Norman Powell looked like steps in the right direction, but Haynes advocates for the Trail Blazers’ front office to take a more aggressive, riskier approach, seeking a deal that would pair Lillard with a legitimate second star.

While Haynes’ piece for Yahoo Sports is an opinion column, it’s worth noting that the veteran reporter is on good terms with Lillard, having frequently interviewed him and reported on him. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lillard shares the views Haynes puts forth in the piece, but the Trail Blazers star will turn 31 this summer and will want to make the most of his remaining prime years.

Whether or not they’re getting a push from Lillard, it’s fair to say the pressure is increasing on the Blazers’ front office. That pressure applies to the coaching staff too. Echoing another recent report, Haynes suggests within his column that head coach Terry Stotts is very much on the hot seat.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Former Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, who played in Minnesota on Thursday as a Warrior, said he has “nothing but love” for his old team and for his time in the city, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Living here was great,” Wiggins said. “I got to meet a lot of people in the community. I made a lot of friends and people that I’ll talk to and be cool with the rest of my life. Just playing here with the organization it was cool. Helped me grow into the man I am today.”
  • Charlie Brown Jr. is looking to make the most of his 10-day audition with the Thunder, a team he worked out for prior to the 2019 draft, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman details. Meanwhile, in a separate story, Mussatto writes about Gabriel Deck‘s “welcome to the NBA” moment during his debut on Thursday — the Argentinian forward was matched up with Zion Williamson during his first few minutes in the NBA.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Denver Post, Mike Singer explores Michael Porter Jr.‘s contract situation, JaVale McGee‘s role, and whether any more roster moves are coming for the Nuggets. Singer expects the current 17-man group to be the one Denver takes into the postseason.

Terry Stotts’ Seat In Portland Getting Hotter?

Terry Stotts is expected to remain the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for the rest of this season, but the team will likely take a “long, hard look” at Stotts’ performance this offseason, Jason Quick writes for The Athletic.

Stotts, who took the reins in Portland way back in 2012, has led the Blazers to a 392-312 (.557) record since then and is on track to make the postseason for an eighth consecutive year. This year’s team is 32-24, two games ahead of Dallas for the No. 6 seed in the West.

However, as Quick explains, Portland’s inability to improve on defense is a concern, especially since the front office has added several players – including Robert Covington, Derrick Jones, Norman Powell, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – viewed as upgrades on that side of the ball. The Blazers currently rank 29th out of 30 teams with a 115.9 defensive rating.

This year’s Blazers have also shown a “staggering lack of fight” against some contenders, according to Quick, who notes that the club has a 1-8 record against the top five teams in the West. Quick observes that the team has had a few frustratingly flat performance as of late, with Stotts making some curious rotation decisions, such as holding out a healthy Jones for the entirety of Sunday’s loss in Charlotte.

Portland’s record this season has been buoyed by a 22-8 showing in “clutch” games (games whose scores are within five points at any time in the last five minutes), which can be attributed in no small part to Damian Lillard‘s heroics. The Blazers have a negative overall net rating, which is rare for a team eight games over .500.

As Quick writes, it’s not a question of whether the Blazers believe Stotts is a good coach — they wouldn’t have stuck with him this long if they didn’t think so. However, the front office will have to determine if he’s capable of getting more out of a team that has championship aspirations.

Stotts has one year and $7MM left on his contract after this season, according to Quick.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Saunders, Russell, Elleby, Daigneault

Karl-Anthony Towns‘ return to action remains up in the air, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. The Timberwolves star has been sidelined since testing positive for COVID-19 in mid-January. Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said Towns has been working out with the team on the road as he tries to get back into playing shape. He hasn’t played since January 13.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves had lost eight of 10 games without Towns entering Friday’s action, and D’Angelo Russell and Saunders don’t seem to be on the same page when the team attempts to close out games, Krawczynski notes. It takes time for a coach and a point guard to build trust, and they are working on that process right now, Krawczynski adds. Saunders is also struggling to maximize the backcourt combination of Russell and natural point guard Ricky Rubio.
  • Trail Blazers rookie CJ Elleby impressed coach Terry Stotts with his overall production when injuries thrust Elleby into the rotation on Thursday, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The 46th pick of the draft, Elleby had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. “He asserted himself into the game rather than just watching others play,” Stotts said.
  • Thunder coach Mark Daigneault likes the makeshift format of playing the same opponent in back-to-back games this season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. “In the NBA schedule, you run into something that bothers you and you end up chasing your shadow but you’ve got a different opponent coming around the corner,” Daigneault said. “And so it’s hard to really spend too much time reflecting on the last game because you’ve got to turn the page. The series allow you to do both.”

NBA Announces All-Bubble Awards

The NBA announced today that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Seeding Games, earning de facto MVP honors for the league’s restart.

Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 shooting in eight seeding games, led the Blazers to a 6-2 record, allowing the team to surpass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Portland will earn the conference’s final playoff spot if it picks up a win over Memphis today or tomorrow.

Lillard was the unanimous selection among 22 media voters for the bubble’s MVP award. Devin Booker (Suns) received 19 second-place votes, with T.J. Warren (Pacers) picking up two and Luka Doncic (Mavericks) getting the other one. Booker, Warren, Doncic, James Harden (Rockets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) all received third-place votes.

Meanwhile, Suns head coach Monty Williams was named the Coach of the Seeding Games, per today’s announcement. The selection comes as no surprise after Williams led Phoenix to an 8-0 record this summer. The Suns narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-in tournament, but were the only club that went undefeated during the seeding games, despite initially being ranked 21st of the 22 teams invited to Orlando.

Williams was a near-unanimous choice, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts receiving one first-place vote and finishing second overall in voting. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were among the other top vote-getters.

The NBA also announced All-Seeding Games First and Second Teams, as follows:

First Team:

  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  • Devin Booker (Suns)
  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • James Harden (Rockets)
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers)

Second Team:

Lillard, Booker, and Doncic were unanimous First Team selections, with Harden and Warren each receiving 18 of 22 First Team votes. Antetokounmpo received the other eight First Team votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Stotts, Wolves, D-Lo, Dort

Despite a disappointing season so far in Portland, there’s no reason to believe Terry Stotts‘ job will be in any danger this spring, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Sam Amick of The Athletic. Coming off the Trail Blazers‘ appearance in the Western Conference Finals a year ago, the team extended Stotts’ contract through the 2021/22 season.

This season, the Trail Blazers are in danger of missing the postseason altogether. Even if they sneak in, they’re extremely unlikely to win a series. However, major injuries to key contributors like Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood have played a significant role in Portland’s slide, so regardless of how the season ends, Stotts looks safe going forward, Amick writes.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Timberwolves have the most valuable combination of first-round picks for the 2020 draft, according to research by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link). Besides their own lottery pick, the Wolves will have Brooklyn’s first-rounder, which will almost certainly fall in the 15-17 range.
  • D’Angelo Russell had his first great game since joining the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, showing why the team pursued him so aggressively for so long, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • ESPN’s Royce Young reported earlier this week (via Twitter) that Thunder wing Luguentz Dort has 16 days of NBA service time available on his two-way contract. Since Dort is only moving closer to his 45-day limit on days when Oklahoma City actually plays, the team should be able to have him active through March 28, the last day of the G League season. After that date, he can spend the rest of the regular season with the Thunder.
  • As I explained earlier today, Dort won’t be eligible for the postseason unless the Thunder promote him to their 15-man roster. Young suggests (via Twitter) that talks on a standard contract likely won’t pick up until late in the season, since it could be in both sides’ best interests to wait — OKC would save some tax money and Dort could continues increasing his value.

Blazers Sign Terry Stotts To Multiyear Extension

MAY 24: The Trail Blazers have officially announced Stotts’ new extension, confirming that it will add two years to the head coach’s contract, running through the 2021/22 season.

MAY 21: Less than 24 hours after they were eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers have agreed to terms on a multiyear contract extension for head coach Terry Stotts, tweets Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey said that the two sides finalized an agreement “20 minutes ago,” Holdahl adds (via Twitter).

[RELATED: Blazers, Lillard expected to agree to super-max extension during offseason]

Stotts, who previously coached the Hawks and Bucks, took over the Blazers’ head coaching job in 2012, which makes him the fourth longest-tenured coach in the NBA. After finishing 33-49 in his first season on Portland’s bench, Stotts has led the club to six consecutive playoff berths, for an overall regular season record of 325-249 (.566).

The 2018/19 season represented the first time that Stotts had guided the Blazers past the second round of the postseason. In their five previous playoff trips, the team was eliminated in the first round three times and advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals twice.

Stotts’ contract with the Blazers had been set to expire after the 2019/20 season, so it comes as no surprise that the club would quickly extend his deal rather than asking him to enter next year as a lame duck.

As we detailed earlier today, Stotts hadn’t been thrilled by the fact that Portland chose not to extend him a year ago after his Blazers claimed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, then were swept by the Pelicans in the first round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Stotts, Offseason

Earlier today, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Trail Blazers are expected to sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension that would lock him up for four additional seasons beyond the end of his current contract.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst covered the same subject in his own article this morning, pointing out that the uncertain ownership situation in Portland is a potential wild card for Lillard and the Blazers. However, even though the star point guard would remain eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2020, he’s “at ease” with the ownership situation and is open to signing that new deal this offseason, sources tell Windhorst.

While Trail Blazers ownership – headed by Jody Allen, the sister of late owner Paul Allen – appears set to commit big money to Lillard, it’s unclear whether the team will continue to authorize future luxury-tax spending, Windhorst writes. For now, those in the organization have been informed that no short-term changes to spending are anticipated.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Terry Stotts‘ contract situation will be worth watching closely this offseason, as 2019/20 is the final year of his current deal. Sources tell Chris Haynes that Stotts wasn’t pleased about not being extended a year ago, so the team will likely have to put an extension on the table now in order to get him back for next season. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey, who has two years left on his contract, may have earned an extension as well, Windhorst writes.
  • In his preview of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explains why it will be tricky for the team to retain role players like Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, and Seth Curry, and points out that CJ McCollum will be extension-eligible too.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News previews Portland’s upcoming summer as well, exploring whether the club can find a way to take another leap forward in 2019/20.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic rounded up some post-game reactions from Blazers players on Monday, and took a look back at what was a memorable 2018/19 season for the franchise. “In the past few years, I’ve been much more like … hurt,” Lillard said, following Portland’s elimination. “Right now, a lot of the things that happened … like, I know how we lost. And not dominating how I would have liked to is disappointing. But to be where we are now — one of the final four teams — it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

Trail Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Lillard, Collins

After their 2017/18 season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the first round of the postseason, the Trail Blazers came close to firing head coach Terry Stotts, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Portland was close enough to making a move that teams like the Suns begin reaching out to intermediaries to gauge Stotts’ potential interest in their own coaching openings.

However, while ownership seriously considered a change, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and star point guard Damian Lillard fought for Stotts, according to Lowe.

“I was asked what I thought, and I just said I love him as a coach,” Lillard said of Stotts. “We all love him.”

Lowe’s piece takes a deep dive into the Trail Blazers’ culture, as he notes that Lillard and C.J. McCollum “tolerate no squabbling, or blame games.” That attitude permeates the organization from top to bottom, according to Lowe, who points to the relationship between Olshey and Stotts as another example.

Although the two team leaders haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, they’ve developed an understanding that Olshey will avoid players who don’t fit Stotts’ style and Stotts will coach the players he gets. As a result of their relationship, Lowe explains, players will never see Olshey and Stotts at odds in any serious way, as the organization emphasizes a drama-free and resentment-free culture.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Blazers:

  • The Blazers’ late owner Paul Allen, who passed away last month, addressed the team in the wake of its first-round exit, calling the four-game sweep “unacceptable,” sources tell Lowe. Based on the language and the tone, people within the organization were nervous that a major shakeup was coming during the offseason.
  • Allen was ultimately convinced to give everyone – including Stotts and the Blazers’ core – one more season, while team management and coaches vowed to make changes heading into 2018/19. Namely, as Lowe details, Portland wanted to surround Evan Turner with more shooting on the second unit, re-shuffle the rotation to get Lillard and McCollum more playing time together, and get off to a faster start this season. So far, that plan is going well.
  • The Blazers still want to find a way to supplement their Lillard/McCollum duo with a third impact player, sources around the NBA tell Lowe. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic have emerged as perhaps Portland’s most valuable trade chips, but the club doesn’t want to trade Collins and “almost certainly won’t” anytime soon, Lowe reports.
  • Lowe identifies Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris as the type of player who would appeal to the Blazers, though acquiring either of those guys in a trade or as a free agent would be an extreme long shot. Forwards like Otto Porter of the Wizards and Taurean Prince of the Hawks may be more realistic trade targets, Lowe notes.
  • Lillard still believes the Blazers are capable of reaching greater heights during his tenure with the team. “Good things come to good people, even if you get swept somewhere along the way,” he tells Lowe. “This is what goes through my mind: I’m gonna be in my 11th year or something here, I’m gonna stick with it, and we’re gonna make the Finals.”

Lawrence’s Latest: Rockets, Butler, Stotts, Suns

The Timberwolves didn’t show much interest in the Rocketstrade offer for Jimmy Butler that featured four first-round picks along with Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News confirms. According to Lawrence, Tom Thibodeau views Knight and Chriss as “dead weight” and would prefer a deal that includes Eric Gordon and/or P.J. Tucker.

Meanwhile, Lawrence is also the latest reporter to identify the Sixers as a potential dark horse in the Butler sweepstakes. Lawrence suggests Philadelphia had hoped to trade the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder in a deal for Kawhi Leonard and could offer that pick to the Timberwolves in a Butler package.

Here’s more from Lawrence:

  • According to Lawrence, league executives think that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will bring in someone with strong ties to the franchise to run the front office next year. Lawrence identifies Chauncey Billups as one possible candidate.
  • Although Terry Stotts appears safe as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for now, there are rival GMs and scouts that view his position as “tenuous,” says Lawrence. Stotts, whose contract runs through 2019/20, sought an extension in the offseason but was turned down by owner Paul Allen, according to Lawrence. Allen has since passed away and his sister Jody has always been more involved with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks than the NBA club, resulting in speculation about a Blazers sale, Lawrence notes. That could create further uncertainty for Stotts.
  • One Western Conference president on the Suns, according to Lawrence: “The minority owners are furious that [owner Robert] Sarver decided on his own to fire [GM Ryan] McDonough.”
  • Lawrence echoes an earlier report, writing that the Wizards are showing no inclination to break up their team or to fire head coach Scott Brooks. However, one Eastern Conference executive cautions that could change. “Brooks’ seat could get hotter if they don’t win and management thinks the team is better than it really is,” the exec tells Lawrence.