Terry Stotts

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.

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Stotts, Pacers

As Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com noted on Twitter, there’s an interesting tidbit tucked within his report on the NBA’s new Global Camp in Italy. The event, which showcased most of the top international draft-eligible prospects, was attended by 29 or 30 NBA teams. The only NBA club not present, according to Givony, was the Bulls, due to their unwillingness to pay the $10K fee the league charged for subsidizing expenses.

The Bulls, who have been criticized in the past for penny pinching, were quick to respond to Givony’s report. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune relays, the club insists it didn’t attend the NBA Global Camp because it had already done extensive scouting in Europe this year.

“We made a decision not to attend the Treviso camp given our trust in our director of international scouting, Ivica Dukan, and his knowledge of the event and the prospects in attendance,” Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said. “We are also currently holding workouts for our two first-round draft picks and want all of our scouts present as we go about this very important process.”

While the Bulls may not have needed to take a closer look at those international prospects this week in Italy, the team should probably be willing to put up that $10K in order to obtain the medical information on the players who participated, Givony observes (via Twitter).

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While it briefly appeared that Terry Stotts‘ job might be in jeopardy after the Trail Blazers were swept by the Pelicans in April, the Pistons wanted to talk to Stotts about their coaching job and Portland denied them permission, reports Mitch Lawrence of The Sporting News (Twitter link). Lawrence adds that John Beilein had legit interest in the Detroit job, and consulted with NBA team executives before electing to remain with the Wolverines.
  • The Pacers will host their second pre-draft workout on Friday, according to the team. Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), A.J. Davis (Central Florida), Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), Alize Johnson (Missouri State), and Shake Milton (SMU) are scheduled to participate.
  • We passed along several more items from out of the Central division on Wednesday, including details on Mike Budenholzer‘s new Bucks coaching staff, the Bulls‘ offseason plans, and more. Be sure to check those stories out here and here.

Western Rumors: Grant, Stotts, Rosenfeld, Fish

The Thunder’s desire to re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Jerami Grant could be hampered by luxury tax issues, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman points out. Oklahoma City is intent on re-signing Paul George and if that happens, it will be well over the league salary cap. Numerous teams will likely offer Grant their mid-level exception with a starting salary of $8.6MM per year,, Dawson continues. At that level, Grant would cost the Thunder an additional $45MM in luxury tax if George signs a max contract, Dawson adds.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers would prefer to retain coach Terry Stotts for the final year of his contract, Marc Stein of the New York Times relays in his latest newsletter. The team’s stars are supporters of Stotts, as is a good chunk of Portland’s fan base, Stein continues. There’s a general sense that Stotts has gotten the most out of the rosters he’s been handed, despite getting swept by the Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs.
  • The Lakers’ director of basketball analytics, Jason Rosenfeld, has left the organization, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Rosenfeld has accepted an MLB-related position, Pincus adds. Rosenfeld joined the Lakers in October.
  • Suns strength and conditioning coach Jeff Fish has resigned, Chris Haynes of ESPN tweets. Fish was just hired during the offseason.

Pacific Rumors: Thomas, Budenholzer, Cook, Kings

Isaiah Thomas hip issue has severely damaged his value on the open market, some front office executives told Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. Fears that his hip is either pre-arthritic or already arthritic will likely force the Lakers point guard to accept a one-year “prove it” deal or a two-year deal with a team option, Deveney continues. That’s a dramatic fall for a player who was expected to be a max contract candidate just a year ago, Deveney notes. One GM that Deveney talked to predicted that Thomas would have to accept a “low-risk deal.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • It’s unclear why Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the Suns he was no longer interested in their head coaching job, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes. He was either underwhelmed by what he heard from the Suns’ brass, didn’t get a sufficient financial offer or found a better opportunity somewhere else, Bordow adds. Ex-Grizzlies coach David Fizdale appears to be the favorite for the job but he’s also being pursued by the Knicks, Hornets and perhaps the Bucks, Bordow continues. Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov also appears to be a prime candidate but if the Trail Blazers fire Terry Stotts, he would likely become the frontrunner, Bordow adds.
  • Quinn Cook‘s long odyssey from being undrafted in 2015 to rotation player with the Warriors in this year’s playoffs is chronicled by Sports Illustrated’s Jack Fischer. This season alone was a whirlwind, as Fischer explains, with Cook getting waived by the Hawks before training camp, then signing a two-way contract with Golden State. When Stephen Curry was sidelined by a left knee injury, the Warriors signed Cook to a standard contract. He’s averaging 6.8 PPG in 19.8 MPG against the Spurs in the opening round.
  • The Kings have $5.4MM in cap room to use by the end of June, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. They increased it by $2MM through the set-off in the waived contracts of Anthony Tolliver and Arron Afflalo, Marks adds. The new cap year begins in July.

Terry Stotts’ Job In Jeopardy?

There are “murmurs” that Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts may be fired after being swept by the Pelicans, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Stotts has five straight postseason appearances and a 272-220 record in his six years in Portland. However, this is the second consecutive season that the Blazers have been swept out of the playoffs in the first round.

If Stotts is dismissed, Stein says the Magic would have “immediate interest” in hiring him. Orlando fired coach Frank Vogel after the end of the regular season, but hasn’t been in a rush to find a replacement, with Jerry Stackhouse as the only scheduled interview.

Stotts, 60, had head coaching jobs in Atlanta and Milwaukee before joining the Blazers. He was also a longtime assistant, working with the SuperSonics, Bucks, Warriors and Mavericks.

Kyler’s Latest: Magic, Walker, Kawhi, Bucks, Blazers

Teams that have been in contact with the Magic believe that Orlando’s front office is looking to shed some salary and trade players that don’t fit the club’s direction, Steve Kyler reports in his latest piece for Basketball Insiders. However, draft picks don’t appear to be atop the Magic’s wish list, with the team preferring to acquire expiring contracts and/or players on rookie contracts. Kyler suggests that Orlando would prefer to acquire players that are a little further along, rather than rebooting its rebuilding process by focusing on future picks.

While the Magic have “seriously” gauged potential trade interest in Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier still looks like the player most likely to be moved at the deadline, according to Kyler. Fournier is enjoying a career year, posting a career-best 18.0 PPG through 38 games this season, and he seems to be generating the most interest from rival teams.

Here are a few more highlights from Kyler’s latest look at the trade market:

  • League sources that have engaged the Hornets in Kemba Walker discussions believe that Charlotte is gathering facts and information, but is unlikely to move the star point guard at the February 8 deadline, according to Kyler. An offseason trade involving Walker may be more viable.
  • There’s a belief that the Hornets tried to engage the Spurs about a trade idea involving Walker and Kawhi Leonard, which may have been how the Walker rumors started, writes Kyler. Leonard was named specifically in Rick Bonnell’s recent Charlotte Observer story as the type of All-Star the Hornets would want to get back for Walker, so there may be something to that theory. However, league sources tell Kyler that the Spurs have immediately shut down any inquiries they’ve received on Leonard.
  • It’s not out of the question that Jabari Parker could become a trade chip for the Bucks if the right deal arises, says Kyler. League sources tell Basketball Insiders that the Bucks are “weighing where they are” with the former No. 2 overall pick, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. According to Kyler, Milwaukee continues to eye noteworthy bigs like DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside, dangling John Henson and some young players as potential bait.
  • In the wake of news that Damian Lillard met with Paul Allen last week, Kyler hears that the Trail Blazers owner has taken a “more hands-on approach” recently. That includes having top-level staff members gauge the general opinion around the NBA on president Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts.

Lillard Met With Blazers’ Owner To Discuss Team’s Direction

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard met last Thursday with team owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the franchise, league sources tell ESPN’s Chris Haynes. According to Haynes, Lillard requested the meeting in order to reaffirm his commitment to the club and to receive assurances that Allen remains devoted to putting together a championship-caliber roster.

League sources tell Haynes that Allen was worried in the weeks leading up to the meeting that his star point guard would ask for a trade, but Lillard made no such request. Per ESPN’s report, the 27-year-old did make it clear during the sitdown that he “desperately” wants to win a title in Portland, inquiring about how the Blazers’ brass plans to try to make that happen during his prime years.

The meeting represents the first time that Lillard and Allen have sat down privately to discuss the state of the franchise, but Haynes’ sources described it as a productive session that could lead to more meetings in the future. No one else in the organization was aware of the meeting until after the fact, when Allen informed both the basketball and business operations staffs, according to Haynes.

Haynes’ report also provides a few details on topics discussed during the sitdown, noting that Lillard gave head coach Terry Stotts a “heartfelt vote of confidence.” However, the point guard questioned the front office’s decision to trade Will Barton in 2015, making it known that he disagreed with the move. Conversely, Allen sought an explanation from Lillard for the Blazers’ inconsistent play in the first half of this season. Lillard and Allen also talked about possible trade targets, Haynes notes.

Lillard remains under contract through the 2020/21 season and has shown no desire to leave Portland, but requesting a meeting with ownership signals that he’ll be monitoring the front office’s roster moves closer than ever going forward. With Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Meyers Leonard all locked up to eight-figure salaries through at least 2019/20, the Blazers don’t have a ton of cap flexibility, so it will be interesting to see how president Neil Olshey and his staff look to upgrade the club’s roster at the deadline and in the offseason.

Trail Blazers Notes: Stotts, Lillard, Collins

Players are standing behind Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts through the team’s inconsistent performance, according to Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest. Stotts has become a target of fan anger during a 20-18 start that has included losses to lower-level teams such as the Hawks, Nets and Kings. With 13 returning players, Portland was counting on continuity to improve on last year’s .500 performance, but the Blazers have often struggled to score and enter tonight last in the league in assists and 25th in total offense.

“We all know what’s going on,’’ Ed Davis said. “The guys on the team, we read about it, and I know Coach does … that ‘Hot Seat’ stuff and things like that. Everybody sees it, and I know while I’m here, [along with] a bunch of the rest of the guys in the locker room, we are going to fight for Coach. Every night. There is no quit in us. He’s our leader.’’

Stotts is in his sixth year as Portland’s coach, compiling a 243-205 record with four straight playoff appearances. He has one more season left on the contract extension he signed after the 2015/16 season.

There’s more today out of Portland:

  • Damian Lillard said his admiration for Stotts factored into his decision to accept an extension with the Blazers in 2015, Quick adds in the same piece. Lillard has been a strong defender of the coach, including a publicized interaction with a fan on Instagram in November. The star point guard said owner Paul Allen hasn’t asked him about Stotts, but he knows what he would say if Allen or GM Neil Olshey approached him about a coaching change. “I would want to know why,’’ Lillard said. “Because I honestly don’t feel like he is the issue. As players we have to do things a lot better. I honestly feel like he is one of the better coaches in the league as far as being an offensive coach, but also in giving players an opportunity, and connecting with the players, too. And then we have a great coaching staff. That is not the issue.’’
  • Lillard was surprised to end up in Portland in the 2012 draft, relays Noel Harris of The Sacramento Bee. In response to a fan’s question on Twitter, Lillard said he expected be taken by the Kings, who held the fifth pick, one ahead of the Blazers. Sacramento opted for Thomas Robinson, who played for six teams in five years and is currently in Russia.
  • Rookie center Zach Collins has brought some toughness to the Blazers, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Collins has earned a spot in the rotation over the past month after seeing little playing time to start the season. “The biggest thing is his character has come through in that he’s aggressive, he’s determined,” Stotts said. “After a tough summer, he came in and wanted to improve. I think it just shows his determination.”

Jusuf Nurkic Remains “Uncertain” For First Round

While the Trail Blazers are set to kick off their best-of-seven series against Golden State on Sunday, the team remains uncertain of Jusuf Nurkic‘s ability to play. While Nurkic has been seen shooting warm-ups in the games leading up to the playoffs, the “Bosnian Beast” will likely be a game-time decision on Sunday.

“I feel better and I’ve made good progress, but we still haven’t decided if I’m going to play,” Nurkic told the Associated Press. “If it doesn’t hurt I’m going to be back. It’s not a question- I’m going to do my part, work every day like I do, and try to be back. If it was up to me, I’d play right now.”

Nurkic’s presence in the first round would be crucial for the Blazers’ ability to compete with Golden State. The 21-year-old Nurkic was revitalized by a trade deadline move to Portland, averaging 15.2 points with 10.4 rebounds over 20 games. After suffering a fracture in his right fibula on March 30, Nurkic would be looking at a recovery period of just under three weeks.

Coach Terry Stotts talked up Nurkic’s recovery while speaking with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, but provided no concrete answers regarding his timeframe.

“He’s improved, his leg is better, he’s made good progress,” Stotts said. “His status for Game 1 is undetermined.”