Tyronn Lue

Central Notes: Drummond, Lue, Cavs, Bulls, Rose

It appears likely that the Pistons will ultimately make a deal involving Andre Drummond before the trade deadline, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. However, teams aren’t offering first-round picks right now for the big man, per Edwards, who notes that initial talks between the Pistons and Hawks only involved expiring contracts.

While those offers seem likely to improve by February 6, it still remains unclear how much teams will be willing to give the Pistons for a player who could be had in free agency this summer. Edwards examines a few rumored suitors, arguing that the Hawks and Hornets make more sense than clubs like the Knicks, Celtics, and Cavaliers.

As Edwards explains, both Atlanta and Charlotte will have plenty of cap flexibility to sign Drummond this offseason, but haven’t historically been popular destinations for free agents. Giving up an asset for the Pistons’ center now and getting him familiar with the organization for a few months before free agency could give those clubs a leg up on a long-term deal in the summer, Edwards writes.

As we wait to see what happens with Drummond, here’s more from around the Central:

  • Now a top assistant for the Clippers, Tyronn Lue admits that he wishes he were still the Cavaliers‘ head coach, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Yeah, I do,” Lue said after a long pause. “What I tried to build there, I think the culture I tried to set … I thought we could do it together. Koby (Altman) being a young GM, me being a young coach, having young players. I won a championship there, so you have a chance and an opportunity to do something different, and you should have that leeway to be able to go through a couple challenging years. To win a championship and go to the Finals should buy you a little time, you would think.”
  • The Bulls‘ first half didn’t play out like the team had hoped, but head coach Jim Boylen insists there have been positive signs of progress over the last three months, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details. “I’m not discouraged. I’m kind of excited that we have established some things,” Boylen said. “Our shot profile is top-five in the league. Our defense on any given day is between five and nine, top-10 in the league. That’s what we’re building. And we’ll continue to work.”
  • Derrick Rose has been one of the Pistons‘ most valuable players this season and is helping the team stay competitive, but head coach Dwane Casey doesn’t want the veteran guard playing 30+ minutes per night, as he has recently. Chris McCosky of The Detroit News takes a look at Casey’s dilemma.

Knicks Reportedly “Obsessed” With Masai Ujiri

The Knicks are “obsessed” and “enamored” with Raptors executive Masai Ujiri as the next man to run the franchise, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. A front office shakeup is expected in the wake of yesterday’s firing of head coach David Fizdale, especially considering the poor track record of team president Steve Mills.

Begley speculates it would take “significant money and full autonomy” to land Ujiri, who is already in a comfortable spot after building a championship team. Even if the Knicks are willing to grant that, Ujiri may not want to work for a controversial figure like James Dolan, and he is signed with Toronto until 2021, a contract he said in October that he plans to honor.

Echoing a report we shared last week, Begley states that the Knicks believe Ujiri could be drawn to New York City to provide a larger platform for his charitable work with the Giants of Africa Foundation. However, there was similar speculation about Washington, D.C., a few months ago when the Wizards were restructuring their front office, and Ujiri opted to stay in Toronto.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Despite a 4-18 start and six straight losing seasons, the Knicks’ front office job is still viewed as appealing around the league, Begley adds in the same story. The team has drafted well under general manager Scott Perry and has held on to its first-round picks. The Knicks also retained cap flexibility by signing seven players to short-term contracts this summer after failing to land their top targets in free agency.
  • A few players got to say goodbye to Fizdale before he left the team, Taj Gibson tells Begley (Twitter link). Gibson said Fizdale was emotional during the departure, adding, “Guys loved him.”
  • Mark Jackson, a former Knicks guard and ex-head coach of the Warriors, is a 5-1 favorite to be the next head coach, relays Adam Zagoria for Forbes. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag have Kenny Smith second at 6-1 and Italian coach Ettore Messina at 7-1. Next in line are three college coaches, Michigan’s Juwan Howard, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
  • Interim coach Mike Miller thanked Fizdale and the Knicks organization during today’s pre-game press conference (video link from Vorkunov). Neither Mills nor Perry has addressed the media since the firing became official, and nobody from management has commented apart from an unattributed statement that was released Friday.
  • Former NBA player Keith Bogans has been named to Miller’s staff, the Knicks announced on Twitter.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale Fallout, Potential Long-Term Replacements

The Knicks fired David Fizdale earlier today while also relieving Keith Smart of his duties as assistant coach. The move comes after a 4-18 start, which ties a record for worst in franchise history.

While Fizdale repeatedly told reporters that he had owner James Dolan’s backing, Jabari Young of CNBC.com hears from an agent who represents coaches around the league that the firing was “inevitable.” Assistant coach Mike Miller will now take over as the interim head coach with 60 games to go in the season.

Former Warriors coach and Knicks guard Mark Jackson has been linked to the team as a long-term candidate for the role (any major hire is likely to come in the offseason) and Young reports that Spurs assistant Becky Hammon would be interested in the job should the team be willing to offer her a long-term deal. Young mentions four or five years as the necessary length of the contract.

Young also mentions former Coach of the Year (2007) Sam Mitchell as a good candidate for the short-term, as Mitchell has a reputation for getting top effort out of players.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Jeff Van Gundy, Jason Kidd, and Tyronn Lue are among the former NBA coaches that Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic names as options for the Knicks. Vorkunov also lists several potential candidates without former head coaching experience, such as Jarron Collins, Stephen Silas, and Ettore Messina.
  • The firing of Fizdale won’t clean up the Knicks’ issues, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today explains. Zillgitt believes that the front office should shoulder the blame for putting together this roster and simply expecting Fizdale to produce results with it.
  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post argues that the Knicks should fire team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry. The regime put together a plan of signing big-name free agents and failed to deliver.

Clippers Hire Tyronn Lue As Top Assistant On Doc Rivers’ Staff

The Clippers and Tyronn Lue have agreed on a deal that will make the coach Doc Rivers‘ lead assistant, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. It was recently reported that the team was closing in on a deal with Lue.

Lue was the frontrunner for the Lakers head coaching gig just months ago. Contract talks between Lue and the Lakers reportedly broke down, and the club ultimately hired Frank Vogel to replace Luke Walton.

Lue previously coached on Rivers’ staff, serving as an assistant during stints with the Celtics and Clippers before he made his way to Cleveland, where he won a title as a head coach.

A report in May indicated that the Pelicans and Rockets had expressed interest in hiring Lue as an assistant and that he had turned down offers to join NBA coaching staffs since being let go by the Cavs last fall.

Lue has a record of 128-83 as a head coach with all of his experience coming during LeBron James‘ second era in Cleveland. Now, Lue and James will again share a workplace, albeit in much different circumstances as the two Los Angeles gear up to compete against each other in the Western Conference.

Clippers Close To Hiring Tyronn Lue As Rivers’ Top Assistant

The Clippers are close to bringing aboard Tyronn Lue as the top assistant coach on Doc Rivers‘ staff, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links). Assuming the two sides finalize a deal, Lue would likely be named the team’s associate head coach, Stein adds.

If Lue officially joins the Clippers, it would be a fascinating turn of events, since he was viewed as the frontrunner for the Lakers’ head coaching job less than four months ago. Contract talks between Lue and the Lakers reportedly broke down, and the club ultimately hired Frank Vogel to replace Luke Walton. Now, Lue appears on the verge of joining Los Angeles’ other team under his old friend Rivers.

Lue’s coaching career began in 2011 when he served as a Celtics assistant on Rivers’ staff. He followed Rivers to Los Angeles in 2013, spending a year with the Clippers before being hired by the Cavaliers in 2014.

A report in May indicated that the Pelicans and Rockets had expressed interest in hiring Lue as an assistant and that he had turned down offers to join NBA coaching staffs since being let go by the Cavs last fall. However, it appears the opportunity to work with Rivers again for one of the NBA’s top title contenders may lure Lue back to the sidelines.

Stein’s Latest: Capela, Gordon, Tucker, Lakers, Wolves, Grizzlies

When ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that the Rockets were making virtually everyone on their roster besides James Harden available in trade talks, it was presented as general manager Daryl Morey doing his due diligence and being open to all options. Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta later praised Houston’s starting five and predicted it would return intact next season.

In his latest newsletter, however, Marc Stein of The New York Times paints a different picture. According to Stein, the Rockets are “actively” exploring the trade market for possible deals involving Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and/or P.J. Tucker. One source with knowledge of the club’s thinking tells Stein that Houston is operating as if at least one of those three players won’t be on the roster next season.

Gordon, who has one year and $14MM left on his contract, and Tucker, who has about $16MM+ left over two years, may be easier for the Rockets to move than Capela, since they’re veterans capable of fitting in anywhere and wouldn’t require a long-term salary commitment. However, Capela’s four years of team control may appeal to a club that’s looking for an answer at center and hoping to avoid overpaying a free agent.

As we wait to see what Morey has up his sleeve, here are a few more minor items from Stein:

  • While the amount of years and money the Lakers were willing to offer Tyronn Lue contributed to negotiations breaking down, a disagreement over his staff was also a factor. According to Stein, general manager Rob Pelinka and advisor Kurt Rambis wanted to be able to select Lue’s assistants.
  • The Timberwolves are taking a similar approach under new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, according to Stein, who notes that Rosas brought back Ryan Saunders but dismissed his entire staff. Stein writes that Saunders wanted to hire Sidney Lowe as his lead assistant, but was rebuffed by management.
  • The Grizzlies, the only team still seeking a new head coach, are believed to be considering a new bench model. Memphis wants to have at least one of its assistant coaches hold a dual title that includes some personnel responsibilities, says Stein.

Rockets Notes: Gordon, Lue, MLE, Offseason

A pair of reports on Wednesday indicated that the Rockets are open to the idea of shaking up their roster this summer. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that general manager Daryl Morey is aggressively scouring the market for potential upgrades and is open to trading just about any draft pick or any player not named James Harden, including Chris Paul. Marc Stein of The New York Times followed up on that story by adding that Houston has specifically gauged Clint Capela‘s trade value.

Today, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders continues to flesh out the story, tweeting that Eric Gordon is also among the players being made available by the Rockets in trade talks. According to Kyler, Houston is looking to “change up the locker room” and may be looking to add a lottery pick. Kyler has heard teams like the Celtics, Hornets, Magic, and Mavericks linked to the Rockets as potential trade partners.

Assuming the Warriors win another title, the Rockets could convince themselves for the second straight year that they were the NBA’s second-best team, and there’s no telling whether Golden State will bring back the same roster next year. That’s an argument in favor of not doing anything too drastic this offseason. Still, Morey has long been one of the NBA’s most aggressive executives when it comes to finding upgrades and avoiding complacency, so if he can find a way to extend the Rockets’ window of contention, the team has to seriously consider it.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • In his latest mailbag, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle takes an extended look at the shakeup on the Rockets’ coaching staff, writing that the changes stemmed from the fact that Morey “decided the Rockets could do better.” Within that same article, Feigen pushes back on a report linking Tyronn Lue to Houston. According to Feigen, the Rockets had interest in Lue last October, but didn’t make him an offer then and haven’t shown any interest in him since the season ended.
  • According to Feigen, the Rockets are preparing as if they’ll have the taxpayer mid-level exception available, rather than the full mid-level exception. Unlike last season, when Houston spread its MLE around among multiple players, the club would rather try to use its 2019/20 MLE on a player who could be considered a “significant addition,” filling out the rest of the roster with minimum-salary players or trade acquisitions, Feigen writes.
  • In case it wasn’t clear from Wednesday’s reports – or from owner Tilman Fertitta‘s previous comments about doing anything possible to improve the team – Feigen cites a source with knowledge of the Rockets’ plans who suggested this week that the club is open to making major changes to upgrade its roster. “‘Run it back’ is not what (the Rockets) do,” that source said.
  • Fertitta reiterated that message this week as well, per Feigen: “Wherever we can improve coaching or players, let’s do it. But let’s not change to change. We have to know we can improve in that position whether it’s a coach, film guy or a trainer.”

Lakers Rumors: Magic, Pelinka, R. Paul, L. Rambis, More

Shortly after Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations in April, Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote about the “ESPN elephant in the room,” suggesting that there had been rumblings for much of the year that ESPN was working on a story that would be “extremely unflattering” for Johnson and would focus on his mistreatment of employees.

Johnson denied at the time that such a report had anything to do with his decision, admitting to reporters that he could be demanding, but insisting that he “never disrespected” anyone.

More than a month and a half after Johnson stepped down, it seems that ESPN report has finally surfaced. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com published a fascinating, in-depth look at the Lakers today, citing team employees who said that Magic used “intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority” during his two years as the head of basketball operations in L.A.

“He comes off to the fan base with the big love and the smile,” an ex-Lakers athletic training official told Holmes. “But he’s not — he’s a fear monger.”

Holmes’ many sources – which include several current and former Lakers staffers – described Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka as leaders who made major roster decisions unilaterally, berated staffers, and created a culture that marginalized many employees and generated fear among staffers — at least two employees suffered panic attacks, per Holmes.

“It’s f—-ng crazy over there,” one former Lakers star told confidants, according to Holmes.

Holmes’ story is packed with so many interesting details that it would be impossible to pass them all along without approaching his 6,000+ word count ourselves, so we recommend checking out the piece in full. Here are several of the highlights:

On Lakers’ roster moves:

  • Members of the basketball operations department and coaching staff told Holmes that Johnson and Pelinka completed many of last summer’s free agent signings after having sought little to no input from them. Some members of the organization learned about the moves through media reports.
  • “We all had the same reaction that the basketball world did, like what the f— are we doing?” one Lakers coaching staff member said, referring to a series of signings that included Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee. “Not only are we not getting shooting, but we’re also getting every basket-case left on the market.”
  • During the 2018 draft, the Lakers set up two “war rooms,” with Johnson and Pelinka in one and other front office executives and scouts in the second. Staff members in the second war room were anticipating the team would use its No. 25 pick on Villanova’s Omari Spellman, the top player left on their board. Instead, the club drafted Moritz Wagner, shocking scouts and other staff members, per Holmes.
  • Pelinka later told staffers that he had heard negatives about Spellman and spoke to Lakers player Josh Hart about them before deciding to pass on the Villanova forward. Some members of the organization told Holmes that the pick represented the kind of unilateral decision that the Lakers’ top executives made without looping in key figures who would typically be involved. “For him to covertly go to a player and go behind everybody’s else’s back, that’s the problem,” a coaching staff member said.

On Luke Walton and the head coaching search:

  • After being told by Johnson prior to the 2018/19 season not to worry if the Lakers got off to a slow start, Luke Walton was admonished by Magic two weeks into the season when the club had a 3-5 record. The Lakers’ head coach was confused about why the team had suddenly changed its message, but members of the staff later came to believe that LeBron James‘ agent Rich Paul played a role, as Holmes explains.
  • In November, Paul approached NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a lunch and complained about Walton, telling him that he believed Tyronn Lue – not Walton – was the right coach for the Lakers, sources tell Holmes. Paul also let it be known via back channels that he wasn’t pleased with Walton’s inconsistent lineups and his allotment of minutes, says Holmes.
  • After the Lakers moved on from Walton, they missed out on their top two head coaching targets – Lue and Monty Williams – before hiring Frank Vogel. Multiple staffers who spoke to Holmes said the process left the team in a state of “shock” and “confusion.”

On the Lakers’ handling of players:

  • Members of the organization had problems with the Lakers allowing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to continue playing during the 2017/18 season while he was serving a 25-day jail sentence for violating the terms of his DUI probation. The judge’s work-release rules allowed KCP to practice and play in-state games with the team, but staffers weren’t impressed with the decision, which they viewed as the Lakers trying to curry favor with agent Rich Paul, according to Holmes.
  • “Anybody [else] would have put him on personal leave or suspended him,” one coaching staff member said of the KCP decision, per Holmes. A front office executive added: “I had a major problem with that.”
  • Sources close to some specific Lakers players tell Holmes that those players’ trust in management had “all but evaporated” after the details of the team’s Anthony Davis proposals repeatedly leaked to reporters prior to the trade deadline. “Guys know there’s no trust there,” a Lakers coaching staff member told ESPN before the end of the season. “Guys know the new [administration] has completely bent over to the agent world and were overly sensitive to having these one-sided relationships with these guys where they kind of control our every move because we’re ‘big-game hunting.'”
  • Some players felt that LeBron was complicit in the handling of the Davis situation, given his connection to the Pelicans star through Paul, sources tell Holmes.

On Rob Pelinka:

  • Pelinka would often sit in on pregame and halftime coaches’ meetings, which is unusual for a GM, writes Holmes. “It’s weird from the player’s standpoint,” a coaching staff member told ESPN. “The players are not able to open up and speak freely, because you’ve got the guy in the room who supposedly controls your future, so why would you open up and be honest and confrontational when that might be what is required for that moment?”
  • Current and former staff members expressed serious concerns about Pelinka’s credibility and the flow of information in the franchise, says Holmes. “We think, more often than not, he’s not being truthful,” a coaching staff member said. “That goes throughout the organization.”
  • Despite the concerns about Pelinka, he has a strong backer in Linda Rambis, who has long been a major supporter and ally of the GM, according to Holmes. Rambis, a close friend of owner Jeanie Buss, has been referred to as the Lakers’ “shadow owner,” and one front office staffer says Rambis “loves” that role.

Rockets, Pelicans Interested In Tyronn Lue As Assistant

Despite the fact that his negotiations for the Lakers’ head coaching job fell through, former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue continues to draw interest around the NBA. The Rockets and Pelicans have pursued Lue as a potential lead assistant, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, according to Charania, Lue remains focused on landing a head coaching job. Sources tell Charania that Lue has passed on a couple offers to become an assistant since he was let go by the Cavaliers last fall.

One of those offers, Charania reports, came from Houston during the season. While the Rockets haven’t made a formal offer recently, they’re on the lookout for assistants after parting ways with Jeff Bzdelik, Mitch Vanya, and Roy Rogers.

As for the Pelicans, there are two connections linking Lue to the franchise. New head of basketball operations David Griffin, of course, worked with the former Cavs coach in Cleveland. Lue also worked alongside Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry in Los Angeles, when both men were assistants on Doc Rivers‘ Clippers staff.

The Grizzlies are currently the only NBA team still in the market for a new head coach, and Lue hasn’t been identified as a potential target for Memphis. Assuming the Grizzlies go in another direction, it will be interesting to see whether Lue becomes more open to a lead assistant role, or whether he’ll consider taking the 2019/20 season off in the hopes of being hired as a head coach next spring.

Magic Johnson Talks Pelinka, Lakers, Walton, Lue

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson didn’t hold back during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take this morning, accusing general manager Rob Pelinka of “betrayal,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Johnson made it clear that Pelinka was the person he was referring to when he spoke during his resignation announcement about “backstabbing” within the organization.

“I start hearing, ‘Magic, you are not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office,'” Johnson said. “People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying things, Rob Pelinka, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the Lakers office anymore.”

According to Johnson, he was prepared to help groom Pelinka as his eventual replacement atop the Lakers’ front office, but felt as if the GM was angling for his job sooner, and ultimately decided he couldn’t work alongside someone he thought was trying to undercut him. Asked whether there were others in the front office he felt betrayed by, Johnson only identified Pelinka.

“Just Rob,” Johnson said. “Other people didn’t bother me… what happened was I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore, especially when I got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position.”

Here’s more from Johnson’s eventful TV appearance:

  • In Magic’s view, there were too many cooks in the kitchen in the Lakers’ basketball operations department, writes Youngmisuk. Johnson specifically singled out president of business operations Tim Harris as an executive whose role and influence in basketball operations became outsized.
  • Harris became involved in the head coaching decision after Johnson and owner Jeanie Buss debated the merits of firing head coach Luke Walton, according to Magic. Johnson wanted to replace Walton, but Buss apparently wavered on giving him the go-ahead to do so, as Youngmisuk details. “We went back and forth like that and then she brought Tim Harris into the meeting. Some of the guys and Tim wanted to keep [Walton] because he was friends with him. I said when I looked up, I only really answer to Jeanie Buss,” Johnson said. “Now I got Tim involved. It’s time for me to go. I got things happening that were being said behind my back. I don’t have the power I thought I had to make decisions. And I told them, when it is not fun for me, when I think I don’t have the decision-making power I thought I had, I got to step aside.”
  • Johnson indicated that Tyronn Lue would have been his choice to replace Walton as the team’s new head coach (Twitter link via Clevis Murray of The Athletic).
  • Discussing the Lakers’ 2018 free agent decisions, Johnson said that the Lakers didn’t want to offer Julius Randle a contract longer than one year, adding that Randle may not have been a fit anyway if he had remained on the roster (Twitter link via Murray).