Vivek Ranadive

Bulpett’s Latest: D’Antoni, Hornets, Hayward, Kings, Irving

The Hornets‘ head coaching search is still in progress, but three league sources who spoke to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com said they believe Mike D’Antoni is the frontrunner to land the job.

“I don’t think it’s a done deal or anything, but I know they like the idea of what he can do with LaMelo (Ball) and their running game,” a source told Bulpett. “If D’Antoni can get those guys on his wavelength, that’s going to be an even more fun team to watch.”

D’Antoni has coached a total of 1,199 regular season games for five different teams. If he were to be hired by the Hornets, he would be the second-oldest NBA head coach of all-time, behind only Gregg Popovich. D’Antoni turned 71 on Sunday.

Here’s more from Bulpett:

  • According to Bulpett, chatter around the NBA indicates that the Hornets would like to get off Gordon Hayward‘s contract, which has two years and $61.6MM left on it. “I know Gordon’s situation has been super frustrating,” one executive said to Heavy.com. “He’s such an important player when he’s healthy. He’s talented and he plays the right way. But him staying healthy is a big if.”
  • While Kyrie Irving faced plenty of criticism for his end-of-season comments about “managing the franchise” along with Kevin Durant, GM Sean Marks, and team owner Joe Tsai. However, a source close to the situation suggests Irving was merely stating a fact. “When Kyrie signed as a free agent, he basically said, ‘I’ll come and I’ll bring Kevin Durant,'” that source told Bulpett. “And in return, the Nets agreed that he could have a say in the roster decisions. … With Kyrie, they talked this out beforehand. He wanted a situation like LeBron (James) has — or like he thinks LeBron has.”
  • Bulpett has heard that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who has had an outsized voice in some basketball decisions in the past, chose to listen to his basketball operations executives in the head coaching search, which led to Sacramento hiring Mike Brown. In addition to general manager Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox was involved in that coaching decision, Bulpett notes.

Pacific Notes: Williams, Paul, Irving, Kings

There was a tense atmosphere at the Suns‘ practice on Saturday, which is just what coach Monty Williams wanted to see, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. With a chance to take a commanding lead in its series against the Mavericks, Phoenix fell behind for good midway through the first quarter of Game 3, leaving the players feeling like they missed an opportunity.

“When you’re a sore loser, you’re a sore loser,” Williams said. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t see anybody in the playoffs that’s like, ‘Man, I just love the way we lost today.’ I just don’t see that. … You hate losing and you bring it to the gym the next day. Your food doesn’t taste as good, there’s an attitude with it. But it also has to be channeled the right way.”

The Suns admitted that they focused too much on the officiating in Friday’s game. McMenamin cites a play where Devin Booker and Chris Paul were arguing an out-of-bounds call, which allowed Dorian Finney-Smith to get open for a three-pointer.

“We got out of character a little bit and that’s totally not us, being worried about the calls we’re not getting,” Deandre Ayton said. “At the end of the day, we’re not home. We’re not home at all, so we can’t really expect anything. The crowd is against us and it was loud in there so we just got to maintain focus and stick together more.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Paul had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers in the Suns‘ loss, per Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic. “If I don’t turn the ball over like that, I feel like it’s a different game,” Paul said. “Give (the Mavericks) a lot of credit, I feel like they came out and did what they were supposed to do.”
  • The Lakers had internal discussions about trading for Kyrie Irving before the Nets gave him permission to start playing part-time in early January, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Those sources didn’t say if L.A. decided to make an offer or if the team still has interest, but Begley doesn’t believe it will matter because Irving is likely to re-sign with Brooklyn this summer.
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive attended Saturday night’s playoff game, giving him a chance to see two of the finalists in his team’s head coaching search in action, notes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Mike Brown was on the sidelines as an assistant with the Warriors, while Mark Jackson was part of ABC’s broadcast team. Steve Clifford is the other finalist, and a source told Anderson that there’s nothing new on a potential decision.
  • If the Kings decide to hire Brown, he will remain with the Warriors as long as they’re in the playoffs, Anderson tweets.

Pacific Notes: Booker, McGee, Wiggins, Moon, Ranadive

The Suns were an NBA-best 64-18 during the regular season and are currently up 2-0 in their second-round series against Dallas. After Phoenix lost to Milwaukee in the Finals last season, it would have been easy to have a letdown, but Devin Booker says he’s driven to help the Suns win their first championship.

I have shifted that energy from losing the Finals in a good way,” Booker told Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “It’s a good segue in the locker room to talk about and motivate. We talk about the details of the game. Even [the Pelicans’ series], offensive rebounding doesn’t sit with us well because it’s the reason why we lost [games]. Winning a championship is something I want more than anything in my life.

“… I dreamed about [the Finals] as a kid. But now it’s a reality and I have to make it happen.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Cydney Henderson of USA Today details JaVale McGee‘s evolution into a valuable role player for three championship teams — and possibly a fourth, if the Suns win the title. The backup center believes he was the missing piece to Phoenix’s championship puzzle. “They were the best team last year, they just lost in the Finals,” said McGee. “They need one more piece and I’m that piece. I feel it, this that year.”
  • Andrew Wiggins is thriving in his new role as a small-ball power forward for the Warriors, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. “I mean, it’s not easy, obviously,” Wiggins said, “because 99 percent of the time, I’m smaller. But I feel like I’m just as strong and athletic as anyone else. I love fighting with guys. I love the physicality down there. I feel like it just gets you going. You gotta wake up for this. You can’t just ease into it. If you ease into it, those guys are gonna push you under the rim and bury you.”
  • Xavier Moon, who finished the season on a two-way contract with the Clippers, said in an interview with Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times that he’s going to work on getting stronger this summer in an effort to stick in the NBA. “Just my body. Improving my body, getting stronger, obviously add a little weight and that will help with every aspect of my game and other than that just being a student of the game, just learning to be an NBA point guard, facilitating and knowing when and where to score,” Moon said.
  • Can Kings owner Vivek Ranadive learn from his meddling mistakes of the past and let GM Monte McNair make the final call on the team’s new head coach? James Ham of The Kings Beat explores that question and delves into Ranadive’s history of involvement in prior front office/coaching moves.

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.

Kings Interviewing Coaching Finalists This Week

The Kings are in the process of conducting the second round of interviews with the three finalists for their head coaching opening and owner Vivek Ranadive is heavily involved, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports.

Steve Clifford, Mark Jackson and Mike Brown were revealed as the finalists on Saturday.

Clifford, the former Hornets and Magic coach who mostly recently has done consulting work with the Nets, interviewed Sunday and continued his visit Monday, according to Amick. Jackson, the former Warriors coach and now longtime ESPN/ABC analyst, will then come to Sacramento for his follow-up interview.

Brown, now the Warriors’ associate head coach, is expected to speak with the Kings’ brass later this week. Brown’s interview(s) may take place in San Francisco as well as Sacramento, since the Warriors remain active in the playoffs.

The first round of interviews were conducted via Zoom and Ranadive wasn’t involved, Amick reports. GM Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox and now former chief strategy officer Joe Dumars handled those interviews. Dumars was named on Monday the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations.

Dumars’ contract was expiring and he wanted more direct control over the front office if he was going to stick around, sources told Amick. He wanted McNair to report to him rather than Ranadive but the owner was not interested in doing that. It does not appear Dumars’ role will be filled.

As noted by Marc Stein in a Substack piece and affirmed by Amick, the Kings are seeking a defensive-minded coach.

Kings Notes: Sabonis, Vogel, Catanella, Ranadive, Clarkson, Bagley, McNair

Domantas Sabonis said he’d like to give his input during the Kings’ coaching search, according to Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. Sacramento opted not to retain Alvin Gentry as the team’s head coach.

“I would like to be part of it and talk to everyone,” Sabonis said. “Give them my input, what I think, what I’ve seen, what could work, what could help.”

Sabonis did not play after March 20 due to a knee injury he termed “a severe bone bruise,” James Ham of ESPN 1320 tweets. Sabonis says he has fully recovered from the injury.

We have more on the Kings:

  • Mike D’Antoni, Terry StottsMike Brown, Steve CliffordKenny AtkinsonMark Jackson and Bucks assistants Charles Lee and Darvin Ham have been mentioned as possible replacements for Gentry. Anderson tosses another name into the ring: now-former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
  • Kings assistant GM Ken Catanella will not have his contract renewed, Sean Cunningham of KXTV tweets. He had been with the organization for six seasons.
  • An anonymous former member of the team’s basketball operations staff told Anderson that Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadive has wielded his influence in roster moves, which has damaged the franchise. “It’s one thing to be a fan and want to be involved from afar, but I think when you are meddling in decisions, I think the problem is you have an owner who’s too involved,” the source said. That source said the constant shuffling of players, coaches and executives created a culture of chaos, which left the franchise direction-less. The power within the front office often shifted, depending upon who shared Ranadive’s views regarding personnel decisions.
  • In the same piece, Anderson’s source indicated that Ranadive and former executive Brandon Williams were “driving forces” behind the decision to draft Marvin Bagley III with the No. 2 pick in 2018 over Luka Doncic, though there was a consensus within the organization because Bagley was a “modern-day big who could run the floor with De’Aaron Fox.”
  • Jordan Clarkson was nearly acquired in 2019/20 from the Cavaliers in a trade involving Yogi Ferrell, but the Kings procrastinated due to Ranadive’s involvement. Clarkson wound up getting dealt to Utah.
  • Current GM Monte McNair has wielded more authority than previous execs, with another source telling Anderson, “I don’t believe Vivek is micromanaging Monte.”

Pacific Notes: Green, Poole, Kings, Ranadive, Bridges

Warriors star Draymond Green wants to see Jordan Poole win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this season, Kendra Andrews of ESPN.com writes. Poole has raised his numbers from last season, averaging 18.4 points (up from 12.0) and 4.0 assists (up from 1.9) per contest.

“The award is called the most improved. Not who had the best year. That’s the MVP,” Green said. “A lot of times we get it confused. No disrespect to Ja Morant, but Ja is an MVP candidate. Ja Morant isn’t the Most Improved Player. He was f—ing incredible last year. When you look around, the most improvement has been Jordan Poole and that goes without saying. He is the most improved.”

While Morant was already a borderline All-Star last season, he has raised his averages in 2021/22 as well: 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 49% shooting, up from 19.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 7.4 APG on 45% shooting. He’s currently considered the betting favorite for the award.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee explores how Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has played a role in the franchise’s struggles. Anderson also cites a former team basketball operations employee who called the environment “toxic,” adding that “people don’t trust each other” and “are thirsty to get any advantage or any promotion they can.” Ranadive has been with the Kings since March of 2013. “People are not treated well,” the former employee continued. “They’re not valued. It’s a toxic workplace where there are some super-talented people who either move on or get let go for different reasons. It’s unfortunate because I think people come with really pure intentions and want to turn it around.”
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic examines what’s next for the Kings after missing the postseason for an NBA-record 16th straight time. Sacramento finished with the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference this season (29-52), trading away former No. 12 pick Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis in February.
  • Suns wing Mikal Bridges recently made his case for why he should be Defensive Player of the Year in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, explaining why he believes big men win the award too often. “I would never discredit anybody, and obviously bigs have been winning that award for a while and they do a hell of a job, but the amount of times a big has won over a guard is just crazy,” Bridges said as part of a larger quote. “I think people take it for granted how tough it is to guard the top perimeter players in this league and not be able to really touch them because they’re going to get the foul call.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Kings, Ranadive, Wiseman

Having faced criticism for his underwhelming play with the Lakers throughout the 2021/22 season, former MVP Russell Westbrook told reporters this week that he believes some of the disrespect he has received from fans this season has crossed a line.

“When it comes to basketball, I don’t mind the criticism of missing and making shots. But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue,” Westbrook said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “… ‘Westbrick,’ for example, to me, is now shaming. It’s shaming my name, my legacy for my kids. It’s a name that means, not just to me, but to my wife, to my mom, my dad, the ones that kind of paved the way for me.”

Westbrook said he no longer feels comfortable bringing his children to games because he doesn’t want them to hear the comments he gets from fans — or to face any harassment themselves. His wife, Nina Westbrook, stated on social media this week that she has had “obscenities and death wishes” sent her way.

Addressing his point guard’s comments, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel indicated on Wednesday that he and the team are throwing their support behind Westbrook and his family, according to Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group.

“He’s an important player for us, he’s a part of our family,” Vogel said. “And anytime a player is feeling that type of impact at home with his family, that is a big concern and should be handled with care. And I hope people can respect what he had to say postgame the other night, because it should never come to that.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report considers how the Westbrook situation might play out this summer, suggesting that it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Lakers to waive or buy out the 33-year-old, stretching his $47MM salary for 2022/23 across three seasons to gain more short-term financial flexibility. One source told Pincus the Rockets hope to revisit a potential Westbrook/John Wall swap, but other sources were skeptical the Lakers would have any more interest in that scenario this summer than they did during the season.
  • The Kings were the latest team to take part in what has become a trend this season, issuing a statement on Wednesday to say they disagreed with the NBA’s decision to suspend Domantas Sabonis. Previously, the Heat stated that they disagreed with the league’s decision to take away a second-round pick for their early pursuit of Kyle Lowry in free agency, while the Bucks publicly took exception to Grayson Allen‘s one-game suspension.
  • According to Scott Soshnick and Brendan Coffey of Sportico, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is preparing a bid for English soccer club Chelsea FC, which is currently up for sale. Sportico recently projected Chelsea’s value to be $3.35 billion.
  • With James Wiseman nearing a return, Anthony Slater of The Athletic explores how the Warriors might use him down the stretch, especially when they’re trying to build momentum for the postseason and also reintegrate Draymond Green. In Slater’s view, dedicating a few minutes per half to a second unit led by a Jordan Poole/Wiseman pick-and-roll game could make sense for Golden State.

Kings Notes: Gentry, Christie, Fox, Ranadive, Thompson

Alvin Gentry wanted to avoid the “interim” tag after taking over head coaching duties when the Kings fired Luke Walton on Sunday, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources tell Amick that Gentry was unsuccessful because the front office believed it had another viable candidate in first-year assistant coach Doug Christie. Even though general manager Monte McNair, assistant GM Wes Wilcox and chief strategy officer Joe Dumars all supported Gentry, having Christie as an option gave the organization leverage in its negotiations with Gentry.

Gentry received a raise as part of his new duties, Amick adds, and he has a contract that runs through the end of next season. However, his future as the head coach in Sacramento will depend on how successful he is at turning the team around. Amick notes this is the fourth time in his career that Gentry has received this type of promotion, and he was able to earn long-term coaching stints with both the Pistons and Suns.

As the lead assistant, Gentry already had a huge influence on Sacramento’s offensive strategy, so other than possibly increasing its pace, the team won’t look much different with him in charge.

“This is not about making mass changes or changing philosophies or anything like this,” Gentry said. “I think we’ve got a good system in place. So I think what we have to do is we have to have our players perform better. I’ve got to be better. All the other coaches have to be better, and our players have to be better. I think it’s a group thing.”

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • The Kings’ next major decision should be determining whether they can build a contender around De’Aaron Fox, Amick adds. Fox has gotten off to a terrible start in the first season of his five-year, $163MM extension, shooting just 42.1% from the field and 24.% from three-point range. Three-guard lineups with Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell haven’t been effective, observes Amick, who wonders if a roster upheaval may happen before the February 10 trade deadline.
  • Gentry is the sixth coach in eight years for owner Vivek Ranadive, writes Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Ranadive has a history of being impatient, Biderman adds, and his desire for change caused the organization to part with Michael Malone, who has become a perennial playoff coach in Denver.
  • Tristan Thompson, who was acquired over the summer to provide veteran leadership, said after Monday’s loss to the short-handed 76ers that it will take an organization-wide effort to recover from the poor start (video link). “I think everyone has to look in the mirror,” said Thompson, who also publicly expressed frustration with the team’s situation last week. “It’s not only just players. Yes, it’s a player’s league … but in terms of building a team, it takes a collective group. It takes everyone from the top to the bottom. From ownership to the trainers, to the equipment managers, to the players, to (the physical therapist), to the GM to the assistant GM. It’s all of us.”