Raptors Rumors

Kenny Atkinson A Finalist For Raptors’ Coaching Job?

Kenny Atkinson, who is currently an assistant coach with the Warriors, recently traveled to Toronto for an in-person interview for the Raptors‘ head coaching job, reports Marc Stein at Substack.

A longtime NBA assistant who has spent time with the Knicks, Hawks and Clippers, Atkinson was the head coach of the Nets from 2016-20, accruing a 118-190 record (.383) over parts of four seasons. He has been with the Warriors for the past two seasons.

The Nets improved their win total in each of Atkinson’s first three seasons, making the playoffs in ’18/19. Known as a player development guru, the 55-year-old had a verbal agreement to become Charlotte’s head coach last offseason, but backed out of the arrangement before it was finalized, citing family considerations as a factor in his decision.

Atkinson was a finalist for Milwaukee’s coaching vacancy, which ultimately went to Adrian Griffin, and also interviewed or was expected to interview this spring for the previous openings in Houston and Phoenix.

The Raptors have been very secretive about their search for a new lead coach this offseason after dismissing Nick Nurse. However, they are reportedly in the final stages of interviews and are expected to hire a new coach relatively soon.

According to Stein, since Atkinson interviewed at this juncture, he’s believed to join a group of finalists that includes Virtus Bologna head coach Sergio Scariolo, Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez, and Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic. Sources tell Stein that Scariolo’s second interview was set for “as early as Monday,” though it isn’t clear if he’ll be traveling to Toronto, since his Italian team is about to begin its championship series Friday.

As Stein writes, there’s no real consensus about which coach the Raptors might favor. Some view Scariolo as the frontrunner due to his ties to the organization, having served as an assistant under Nurse for three seasons. But Stein hears Fernandez is also a “name to watch.”

And-Ones: Expansion, Free Agency, Adelman

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made his latest statement on the possibility of expansion during an interview Sunday on NBA TV (video link).

Silver has repeatedly said that the idea of adding teams won’t be considered until after the 2024/25 season. The league wanted to get its new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, which has been done, and negotiate its new media rights deal before thinking about expanding.

“I think it makes sense over time, if you’re a successful organization, to continue to grow,” Silver said. ” There’s no doubt there are a lot of great cities we’re interested in having in the NBA.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Lakers guard Austin Reaves is among the upcoming free agents who boosted their value during the NBA playoffs, writes Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Reaves was already headed for a big payday, but his importance to the team was on display during L.A.’s run to the Western Conference Finals. Reaves will be restricted, so the Lakers can match an offer from another team, and Urbina believes he might get more than the $45MM over four years that L.A. can offer before he explores the market. Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, Heat guard Gabe Vincent, Clippers guard Russell Westbrook, Nuggets swingman Bruce Brown, Nets forward Cameron Johnson and Suns center Jock Landale also make Urbina’s list.
  • James Harden and Kyrie Irving are the top names on HoopsHype’s updated list of this year’s best free agents. The former Nets teammates will be the most-watched players on the market this summer, with Harden rumored to be interested in returning to Houston and Irving possibly not a lock to re-sign with Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis, Fred VanVleet and Khris Middleton round out the top five. The same five players are at the top of a free agent list compiled by Alex Kennedy of Heavy.com.
  • The National Basketball Coaches Association announced Sunday that Rick Adelman is this year’s winner of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Adelman ranks 10th in career coaching wins with 1,042 and reached two NBA Finals with the Trail Blazers.“Chuck was a great coach and respected by all those who coached against his teams,” Adelman said. “To receive an award like this I have to thank all those who helped me along the way, in particular my assistant coaches and front offices. I would also like to thank the players I had through the years. Their effort and cooperation made everything I did possible. Good players make coaching much easier.”

Coaching Rumors: Raptors, Suns, Fizdale, Jack, Pistons, Jazz

The Raptors are now the only NBA team conducting an active head coaching search and shouldn’t face any real competition for any targets on their wish list. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be content to have their search drag on for a few more weeks.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link), the Raptors have scheduled their final round of interviews for this weekend and are expected to make a decision soon on Nick Nurse‘s replacement.

While specific groups of finalists were reported for certain head coaching searches in recent weeks, the Raptors have been pretty tight-lipped throughout their process, so we don’t have a clear picture of which candidates remain in the mix.

Lewenberg confirms that Sergio Scariolo is believed to be a finalist, as previously reported, and says Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez seems to still be in the running too. A separate report this week indicated that the Raptors also continue to consider Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic, but there may well be other finalists besides those three men.

Here are a few more coaching-related notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • Plugged-in local reporter John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) identifies veteran coach David Fizdale as a prime candidate to watch for one of the top spots on Frank Vogel‘s new Suns coaching staff.
  • Former NBA point guard Jarrett Jack, who was an assistant under Monty Williams with the Suns for the last two seasons, is believed to be a “priority” for Williams’ new staff with the Pistons, tweets Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.
  • Former Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski will take over as the head coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Jazz’s G League affiliate, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team issued a press release officially confirming the hiring. Former Stars head coach Scott Morrison will take a spot on Will Hardy‘s staff in Utah next season, as previously reported.

Raptors Have Shown Interest in Sarunas Jasikevicius

The Raptors expressed interest in Barcelona head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius during their ongoing search for a new lead coach, Marc Stein reports at Substack.

As Stein notes, Toronto actually interviewed Jasikevicius for the position in 2018 as well, prior to the team promoting then-assistant Nick Nurse. Jasikevicius was reportedly a finalist at that time. Nurse was dismissed after the 2022/23 season concluded and was recently hired by Philadelphia.

It’s unclear if Jasikevicius, a former EuroLeague legend and NBA guard with the Pacers and Warriors, advanced that far this time around, Stein writes. The Raptors have been quite secretive about their process, much as they were during the lead-up to the trade deadline.

The Grizzlies also expressed interest in Jasikevicius in 2019 prior to hiring Taylor Jenkins to be their head coach.

Jasikevicius, 47, coached Lithuanian side Zalgris for four seasons prior to becoming Barca’s head coach in 2020.

Darko Rajakovic Among Contenders For Raptors' Coaching Job

  • Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic is still in the mix to be the Raptors‘ next head coach, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Rajakovic has been an assistant since 2014 and spent time with the Thunder and Suns as well.
  • Raptors executive Masai Ujiri remains passionate about winning 10 years after joining the organization, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith also looks at Ujiri’s five best and worst moves over the past decade.

Blazers Rumors: Grant, Thybulle, Reddish, No. 3 Pick, Sharpe, More

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant still appears on track to become a free agent this offseason rather than accepting the maximum four-year, $113MM extension he can sign until June 30. Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report said he doesn’t expect the annual salary on Grant’s next deal to be worth more than about $30MM, but suggests that the forward may be waiting until free agency in order to get a fifth year from Portland.

“I think it’s going to come out around five years, $150 million, with probably a player option,” Highkin said. “I know he gets talked about as one of the top free agents on the market, but I’d expect that gets done pretty quickly. It might even be a (6:01 pm) on June 30th type of signing.”

As for restricted free agents Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, Highkin views Thybulle as the player who is more likely to re-sign with the Blazers, suggesting that the former Sixer will be a priority for the front office. Highkin is less certain about Portland’s appetite for a new deal with Reddish, telling Scotto that the team would probably have interest in bringing back the former lottery pick if the price is right.

Here are more highlights from the conversation between Scotto and Highkin:

  • Scotto has gotten the sense that the Trail Blazers are comfortable keeping the No. 3 overall pick and drafting either Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, even as they plan to continue building around Damian Lillard. However, Highkin believes Portland is far more likely to trade the pick for an established veteran, mentioning two-way forwards like Jaylen Brown and Pascal Siakam as potential targets while downplaying the likelihood of the club pursuing offensive-minded players like Zach LaVine. Another Raptors forward, OG Anunoby, has also been linked to the Blazers and would be a good fit on the roster, but Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to give up the No. 3 pick for Anunoby.
  • There are some people in Portland who believe Shaedon Sharpe has All-Star potential, according to Scotto. Highkin agrees that the Blazers are high on Sharpe and expects he’ll be kept out of any trade that doesn’t return a superstar (Joel Embiid or something like that”). Anfernee Simons is the more likely trade candidate, Highkin explains, given his larger cap hit and his fit next to Lillard. Sharpe, who has more size and defensive upside than Simons, is the more logical long-term backcourt partner for Dame.
  • The Blazers may make some changes to their coaching staff this summer to give Chauncey Billups some more experienced assistants, Highkin notes. The organization remains optimistic about Billups’ potential as a head coach and wants to give him an opportunity to lead a more competitive roster, Highkin adds.
  • When the Blazers signed Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $70MM contract last offseason, that didn’t necessarily mean they thought he was their center of the future, according to Highkin, who believes the team is “very open” to moving Nurkic and will explore trade possibilities this summer. Highkin suggests that Nurkic’s willingness to be shut down with a leg injury in 2021/22 when Portland went into tank mode played a part in Portland’s decision to “take care” of him in free agency last summer.

Sergio Scariolo Reportedly Among Raptors’ Head Coaching Finalists

Sergio Scariolo, the head coach of Virtus Bologna in Italy, is reportedly among the finalists in the Raptors‘ head coaching search.

International outlet BasketNews.com passes along a report from Andrea Tosi of Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that states Scariolo has a second meeting lined up with the Raptors. He initially interviewed with the team in Italy earlier this month.

A veteran coach who has spent the majority of his career in Europe, Scariolo is the current head coach of the Spanish national team and has previously led European teams such as Baskonia, Olimpia Milano, Khimki, and Real Madrid. He reportedly has one year left on his contract with Virtus Bologna.

Scariolo had a three-year stint as an assistant in the NBA as well, serving as a member of Nick Nurse‘s staff in Toronto from 2018-21, so the Raptors were already familiar with him. He won a championship with the franchise in 2019 and was briefly the club’s acting head coach when Nurse tested positive for COVID-19 in 2021.

A report on Sunday indicated that the Raptors were advancing to the second round of their head coaching interviews but didn’t clarify which candidates were still in the running to replace Nurse on the club’s bench.

While it remains unclear exactly who Scariolo is up against, Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez was identified over the weekend by Marc Stein as a legitimate candidate to land the Raptors’ job, so Fernandez may be another one of the team’s finalists.

Raptors’ Coaching Search Nearing Conclusion

The Raptors are advancing to a second round of interviews for their head coaching job, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star reports.

It may not be long before they announce Nick Nurse’s replacement. One source told Smith the Raptors president Masai Ujiri had narrowed the list to three candidates and that final interviews are being scheduled, though Smith says he was unable to independently confirm that source’s info.

From the beginning, the Raptors chose to take a broad approach to their search. Ujiri originally indicated the coaching search could last right up to the June draft but the process appears to be reaching an earlier conclusion.

Former Nets coach Steve Nash, Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez, TV analyst JJ Redick, Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo, Nuggets assistant David Adelman and Heat assistant Chris Quinn are potentially some of the names under serious consideration. Toronto had interest in former Suns coach Monty Williams but it’s unclear whether he has been interviewed.

Toronto is heading into a pivotal offseason with Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. expected to join Jakob Poeltl as free agents this summer.

Community Shootaround: Raptors’ Offseason

The Raptors find themselves at a significant crossroads this offseason, with a variety of decisions to make about the direction of their roster in the short- and long-term.

Toronto’s first priority, of course, is finding a new head coach. The club let Nick Nurse go after a five-year run, during which he led the franchise to its first-ever NBA title in 2019. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2020.

More recently, the team finished the 2022/23 season with a 41-41 record and the ninth seed in the East. The Raptors were quickly ousted from the postseason by the Bulls in a play-in game.

Toronto has already interviewed several candidates for the opening, and is pondering several others, per our tracker. The Raptors have spoken with – or is expected to talk to – Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez, Suns assistant Kevin Young, Spurs assistant Mitch Johnson, Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic, former Nets head coach Steve Nash, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, Heat assistant Chris Quinn, Nuggets assistant David Adelman, player-turned-ESPN analyst JJ Redick, and Virtus Bologna head coach Sergio Scariolo.

Toronto has also been linked to former Suns head coach Monty Williams, Williams’ former Phoenix assistant Patrick Mutombo, and Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse. While the club had informal conversations with Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, it is unlikely Hammon is ready to move on from her current gig just yet. The Raptors also spoke with Nurse’s former assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, though it has been reported that the Bucks plan to hire Griffin as their new head coach.

Nurse, meanwhile, is currently in the running to fill the head coaching vacancies of the Sixers or Suns.

At present, the Raptors are still fielding several veteran players from their championship run, including All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam, 2022 All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet, and 3-and-D swingman OG Anunoby. The team’s most important player, however, might be 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, who regressed a bit during his sophomore season. The 6’9″ forward out of Florida State didn’t evolve much as a ball-handler or scorer this year, while his defense plateaued.

In terms of potential free agents, center Jakob Poeltl will be unrestricted, while guards VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. both have player options for next season. Veteran reserve forward Thaddeus Young, who averaged just 14.7 MPG off the bench this year, has an $8MM contract for next season that is only partially guaranteed for $1MM. The direction the Raptors ultimately opt to take could dictate what the team decides to do with Young’s money, though he probably wouldn’t command nearly that much coin in free agency at this point.

Given that the NBA is poised to have a fairly light free agent class, especially in terms of guards, both VanVleet and Trent seem to be in line for lucrative new deals somewhere. VanVleet’s option for next season is worth $22.8MM, while Trent’s would pay a guaranteed $18.6MM, plus $250K in unlikely contract incentives. As an experienced championship playmaker in his NBA prime, VanVleet should have a robust market, while Trent is a solid veteran floor spacer. Would Toronto want to re-sign both players to new long-term contracts, or try to coordinate sign-and-trades for one or both?

The 29-year-old Siakam is in the final season of a four-year, $136.9MM maximum extension he signed with Toronto during the 2020 offseason, and is now eligible for his next extension.

Should Toronto opt to ultimately rebuild its roster and prioritize its youth, it would find plenty of suitors for the contracts of Siakam and Anunoby.

The Raptors have a late lottery pick, No. 13 in this year’s draft, at their disposal, with which team president Masai Ujiri can add more young talent under long-term team control. A deal to offload Siakam or Anunoby, or perhaps VanVleet in a sign-and-trade, could probably get Toronto an even better lottery selection this year.

Trying to simultaneously compete with veterans while also developing youth, in the form of Barnes and this new lottery pick, is a difficult line to thread. The Warriors have found some some success with their “two timelines” approach, though several of their young role players failed to take next steps in their growth this season. Toronto obviously has had mixed success thus far in this department. Would the club be open to trying again?

We want to know what you think. What should the Raptors do this offseason? Which head coach among their finalists should they hire? Should they build around Siakam and/or Barnes? Head to the comments section to share your thoughts.

Stein’s Latest: Irving, Russell, Wizards, M. Williams, Raptors

If the Lakers opt to pursue Kyrie Irving in free agency, the Mavericks wouldn’t be interested in taking back free agent guard D’Angelo Russell as the primary player in a sign-and-trade deal, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack column.

There hasn’t been any concrete information that trying to sign Irving is part of the Lakers’ offseason plans, Stein adds, but there’s plenty of speculation that LeBron James would like to reunite with his former Cavaliers teammate. L.A. was heavily rumored as a possible destination for Irving when he considered opting out of his contract last summer and again when he asked the Nets for a trade in February.

James’ retirement talk after being swept by Denver is widely seen as a message to the Lakers’ front office that a roster upgrade is needed, but Stein isn’t convinced that they’ll be active on the free agent market. He states that the team’s preferred plan is to reach new deals with two of its own free agents, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. It’s less certain that L.A. wants to keep Russell after his disastrous performance in the Western Conference Finals, Stein adds.

The Mavericks appear committed to keeping Irving after paying a high price to acquire him from Brooklyn, according to Stein. A report last weekend indicated that a “handshake deal” may already be in place for Irving to remain in Dallas.

Stein passes along more inside information:

  • Teams around the league are expecting new Wizards president Michael Winger to be aggressive in trying to reshape the roster this summer, but Bradley Beal‘s no-trade clause may complicate his plans. Stein points out that Beal has four seasons left on his five-year, $251MM contract and can’t be sent to any other team unless he agrees to the deal. Stein also wonders how the front office change will affect Kristaps Porzingis, who reportedly began extension talks in March.
  • Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee were set for second interviews this week for the Pistons‘ head coaching vacancy, but Stein hears that the team hasn’t given up on its pursuit of Monty Williams. The former Suns head coach reportedly turned down a “big-money” offer from Detroit, but some members of the organization are hoping he might reconsider.
  • A source tells Stein that Kings associate head coach Jordi Fernandez is a legitimate candidate to become the Raptors‘ new head coach.