Willie Green

Pelicans Notes: Injuries, Ingram, Marshall, Green

Injuries to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson threatened to knock the Pelicans out of the race for the top seed in the West, but the team has found a way to stay competitive, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans improved to 6-3 without its top two players after a dominant win in Washington Monday night.

Ingram hasn’t played since November 25 because of a toe injury, and Williamson is dealing with a hamstring strain that will sideline him for at least two more weeks. The injury list got longer Monday when Herbert Jones left the game in the first half with a lower back contusion. CJ McCollum said the team has learned how to be resilient, regardless of who is available.

“We figure it out. We’ve got a lot of injuries. A lot of teams are going through it … It’s the time of year when you feel more fatigued mentally and physically,” McCollum said. “But you go through that process of having to fight through it, having to really push and trust and work. I think we’ve done that all year. For us to be in this position after the injuries we’ve had, it’s a testament to our team, our staff and our development.”

There’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Ingram said over the weekend that he hopes to return sometime during the team’s current road trip, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. New Orleans will be in Boston Wednesday, Detroit Friday and Cleveland next Monday, and it’s not clear which game Ingram is targeting. Coach Willie Green said Ingram hasn’t participated in a full practice since the injury, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link).
  • Naji Marshall became a believer in Green after watching YouTube clips of his playing career shortly after he was hired as head coach in 2021, Clark notes in a full story. Their bond grew as the Pelicans’ Summer League team posted a 5-0 record, led by Marshall and Jose Alvarado. Even though they weren’t awarded the Summer League title because of point differential, the experience convinced Marshall that Green could produce a winner in New Orleans. “It was major,” Marshall said. “He (Green) was new. He had new players. Really just wanted to show them the way. Was trying to build a foundation of defense first. Playing as hard as you can. We was the champs that year. We weren’t congratulated like we should. But I think we punched everyone in the mouth that summer.”
  • Clark hands out midseason grades for the Pelicans, giving A’s to Marshall, Williamson, Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr. and Dyson Daniels.

Nets’ Vaughn, Pelicans’ Green Named Coaches Of The Month

The Nets Jacque Vaughn and Pelicans Willie Green were named as Coaches of the Month for their respective conferences, the league’s PR department tweets.

Vaughn earned Eastern Conference honors by guiding his club to a 12-1 record in December. Vaughn was named Brooklyn’s head coach on Nov. 9 after Steve Nash‘s early exit. Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Indiana’s Rick Carlisle, Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley and Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers were the other nominees, the league’s PR department adds in a separate tweet.

Green, in his second season as head coach, took Western Conference honors by leading New Orleans to a 10-5 record last month. Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins, Dallas’ Jason Kidd and Denver’s Michael Malone were the other Western Conference nominees.

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Popovich, Pelicans, Jackson Jr.

Zion Williamson suffered a right hamstring strain in the second half of the Pelicans’ loss to Philadelphia on Monday. Williamson, who scored 26 points before departing, will undergo some additional evaluation to determine the severity, according to Willie Green, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets.

“That was extremely difficult,” the Pelicans head coach said. “It was at a pivotal moment during the game. We’ll get some imaging and look at him. Hopefully, he’s OK. Tough loss for us.”

Williamson has appeared in 29 Pelicans games this season after sitting out last season with a foot injury.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says he’ll knows it’s time to retire when he loses his enthusiasm for coaching his team to play the right way, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “I think a little voice in my head will tell me, ‘That’s enough.’ If I’m tired of telling somebody, ‘Why are you getting beat back door so much? Can you please stay in front of somebody?’…When I stop wanting to do that, I will know,” he said.
  • Not only do Memphis fans consider their team the real deal, the rest of the league now considers the Grizzlies a true threat, Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal opines. They emerged from their toughest nine-game stretch of the schedule thus far with a 5-4 record, with those victories coming by double digit margins.
  • Continuing with that storyline, The Athletic’s John Hollinger notes that the Grizzlies’ defense has been top-notch since Jaren Jackson Jr. returned to action. Jackson is blocking 5.8 shots per 100 possessions this season, by far the best in the league, and has been a force on both the perimeter and the paint in coverages.

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.

Southwest Notes: Brunson, Gelfand, Clarke, Johnson

The Knicks are under investigation by the league regarding potential tampering during their pursuit of free agent Jalen Brunson, but that probe wasn’t instigated by Brunson’s old team. According to Marc Stein’s sources, the Mavericks did not file an official complaint against the Knicks, as he reports in his latest Substack post. The Knicks made a series of salary-dumping moves prior to free agency, then snagged Brunson away from Dallas with a four-year, $104MM contract.

We have more Southwest Division news:

  • In the same Substack article, Stein indicates that the Pelicans are making a hard push to hire Pistons analytics expert Sammy Gelfand. Gelfand and Pelicans coach Willie Green previously worked together with the Warriors.
  • Brandon Clarke would be a logical choice to replace Jaren Jackson Jr. in the Grizzlies‘ lineup until Jackson is ready to return from foot surgery. However, that would create other issues, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Clarke didn’t play much with center Steven Adams last season due to the fact that both operate out of the paint. Coach Taylor Jenkins also liked having Clarke on the second unit due to his scoring ability.
  • Keldon Johnson won’t rest on his laurels after signing a four-year, $80MM extension. The Spurs forward told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News that he held a little celebration with family and friends, then went back to work. “I was in the gym the next day,” he said. Johnson wants to live up to the contract. “It’s always been full-time basketball,” Johnson said. “I knew as long as I put in the time and the effort, the extension would come. … I’m in some of the best shape of my life, the strongest I have been in my life.”

Kevin Durant Rumors: Raptors, Pelicans, Suns, Heat

After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested on Friday that Toronto is “lurking” as a team to watch in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes today that the Raptors believe they can put together the best package for Durant that the Nets are likely to receive.

Grange describes the Raptors as “optimistic” rather than “confident,” noting that there’s a sense Durant is at least open to the idea of playing in Toronto, even if the team is not atop his wish list.

However, Grange cautions that the Nets may not agree with the Raptors’ assessment that they can offer the best package for Durant. Additionally, Grange’s story suggests Toronto has remained opposed to making reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes available so far.

While the Raptors have all their future draft picks and have several solid veterans on good contracts – including All-Stars Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, as well as OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. – it’s unclear if they’d be able to make a deal for Durant without putting Barnes on the table.

“That’s the billion-dollar question,” one source said to Grange.

Here’s more on Durant:

  • In the latest episode of ESPN’s Hoop Collective podcast (video link), Tim Bontemps said he believes “Toronto thinks it’s in the game” in the Durant sweepstakes, while Brian Windhorst said he still considers the Suns the favorites, since it’s rare for superstar players not to end up where they want to go.
  • Windhorst (video link) has heard that the Pelicans view head coach Willie Green – an assistant in Golden State during Durant’s Warriors years – as an asset in the chase for the former MVP. As Windhorst explains, the hope would be that if the Nets like what the Pelicans have to offer, Green would get the opportunity to sell Durant on New Orleans.
  • With New Orleans being mentioned as a possible Durant landing spot, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com wonders whether or not the Pelicans should seriously pursue the 34-year-old.
  • Within his latest look at the Durant situation, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms that the Nets would want more than Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in a trade with the Suns and says that any Heat package built around Tyler Herro “wouldn’t scratch the surface of what the Nets want.”
  • Brooklyn is seeking teams’ best assets, Scotto writes, including All-Stars, rising young players, and “substantial” unprotected draft picks and swaps.

Pelicans Notes: Lineup, Griffin, Ingram, Alvarado

The Pelicans‘ “jumbo” lineups weren’t working in Game 1 of their first-round series vs. the Suns, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The team found success in the second half of the regular season by starting Jaxson Hayes at power forward alongside center Jonas Valanciunas, but the two big men had matching plus-minus ratings of -11 on Sunday, the worst marks of any player on either team.

Hayes ended up playing just 11 minutes, with Trey Murphy coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. New Orleans was a plus-six when Murphy was on the court and the team’s offense was functioning better, says Guillory. However, head coach Willie Green told reporters on Monday that he’s not planning to change his starting lineup, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

“Not at the moment,” Green said. “I think as a group, we didn’t have a great first half. That wasn’t one individual, that was us as a team. We have to be better. We have to do the things we do better, harder and with more force and see where we are after that.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin has made some mistakes since being hired to head up the team’s front office in 2019, but he deserves credit for putting together a team that made the playoffs even without Zion Williamson available all season, Rod Walker of NOLA.com opines. Walker believes the Pelicans look like a potential top-three squad in the West with a fully healthy Williamson.
  • Griffin’s faith in Brandon Ingram as a franchise leader on and off the court has been rewarded, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who points to Ingram’s performances in play-in wins over the Spurs (27 points) and Clippers (30 points) as indicators of the forward’s ability to handle the spotlight and step up in big games.
  • Pelicans rookie guard Jose Alvarado is joining Puerto Rico’s national team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania observes, Alvarado will get a chance to face Team USA this summer in qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at the long-standing bond between Willie Green and his first-round coaching rival Monty Williams. After the two men were teammates in Philadelphia, Green played for Williams in New Orleans and then was an assistant on his Suns staff. “Monty and I are not just friends,” Green told Quick. “We are like … that’s like my older brother. I look up to Monty.”

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Zion, Green, Lineup Change

CJ McCollum has been with the Pelicans for nearly two weeks, but he still hasn’t talked to injured star Zion Williamson, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. McCollum, who was acquired from the Trail Blazers in a February 8 trade, shared the surprising news Saturday in an interview with TNT.

“He’s a big part of our future, obviously,” McCollum said of Williamson. “We’re looking forward to getting him back. I haven’t had conversations with him directly. I’ve spoken to people close to him. I look forward to sitting down with him sooner than later. I know about as much as you do right now. But I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”

There has been an air of mystery surrounding Williamson ever since the start of training camp. The Pelicans announced on Media Day that he suffered a fracture in his right foot over the summer, but suggested he was expected to be ready for the start of the season. He has encountered repeated setbacks since then and has been working with a personal trainer in Oregon since January.

McCollum, who consulted with Portland’s front office on the trade, said he’s looking forward to playing alongside Williamson, no matter when it happens.

“The way he scores around the basket is exceptional — 60, 65%, essentially,” McCollum said. “He demands double-teams. He gets to the free-throw line. He gets you into the bonus early. And he gets out in transition as well. So it’s a guy who can do a lot of different things with the basketball and changes the game for everyone around him.”

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans made the move for McCollum with the understanding that Williamson may not return this season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week in an appearance on “Get Up!” (hat tip to James Herbert of CBS Sports). Although the team hopes to reach the play-in tournament, the addition of McCollum is targeted toward improving next season.
  • One of the first things Willie Green had to do when he became the Pelicans’ head coach last summer was rebuild the morale of the team, Clark adds in a separate story. Josh Hart, who was sent to Portland in the McCollum trade, said he “hated playing basketball” under former coach Stan Van Gundy last season, but Green quickly turned that around. “Willie (had) all the trust in me to go out there and play my game and play with confidence,” Hart said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we talked about. It wasn’t just standing in the corner and hoping and praying for the ball.”
  • The Pelicans’ chances of reaching the play-in tournament may depend on the success of a lineup change that Green made in the final game before the All-Star break, per William Guillory of The Athletic. Green inserted Jaxson Hayes into the starting unit in place of Devonte’ Graham, hoping Graham will find his shooting touch as a member of the second unit.

Southwest Notes: W. Green, Porter Jr., Mavericks, Dudley

The faith that first-year Pelicans coach Willie Green showed in his players during a horrendous start is beginning to pay off, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. It appeared New Orleans might be headed for a lost season after opening with a 3-16 record and having no clarity on the return of star forward Zion Williamson, who had offseason foot surgery. Williamson still hasn’t played, but his teammates have turned things around, winning eight of their last 13 games and moving to within two games of the play-in tournament.

“That patience came with a lot of prayer,” Green said. “It was rough at the beginning, and it was challenging, even on me, to stay patient. It’s a long season, and this is an unbelievable group — high-character guys. We can see improvement every week. We didn’t get the results initially, but the guys are believing more and more.”

After making coaching changes the past two offseasons, Pelicans management needed Green to succeed, Guillory adds. Beyond the results on the court, the front office was looking for someone who could get through to the team’s best players and convince them to buy into what he wants to do.

“He didn’t change. … He continued to believe in what got him the job and continued to believe in us,” Josh Hart said. “That was the biggest thing for us — to obviously have a coach who’s confident, a coach who has trust in us to go out there and execute and play.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Injured Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. doesn’t have a return date yet, but he’s continuing to make progress with his bruised left thigh, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Porter, who hasn’t played since December 3, has been ramping up his workouts over the past week. “We’re getting there,” he said. “It has been a work in progress, but we’ve just been making progress each and every day. I’m feeling good. We’re taking steps forward. It’s always hard waiting. Honestly, when it first happens, I feel like it’s the worst because (the rehab) is a long-ball game, but almost being back is a boost of confidence and (to) your self-esteem about everything every day, everything you do daily.”
  • Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News takes a closer look at the six hardship additions the Mavericks are making in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak. Theo Pinson, Marquese Chriss and George King have already joined the team, and the signings of Charlie Brown, Carlik Jones and Brandon Knight are expected to become official soon.
  • Jared Dudley, a first-year assistant coach with the Mavericks, talks to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times about the transition from playing to coaching. “I really wanted to play one last season with the Lakers, to be honest, but I’m also loving coaching,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a coach and for (Jason Kidd) to give me this opportunity, I am so grateful.”

Southwest Notes: Poeltl, Finney-Smith, Green, Kleber

Jakob Poeltl has been out since November 1 due to the league’s health and safety protocols and the Spurs have missed his inside presence, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Poeltl is the team’s top rebounder at 9.7 per game.

“We are a small team,” Spurs forward Thaddeus Young said. “We are shorthanded most nights as far as getting rebounds and being physical under the basket.”

Poeltl is back with the Spurs, but won’t play on Tuesday due to reconditioning.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Some Mavericks fans are lobbying for Reggie Bullock to be inserted in the lineup, but Dorian Finney-Smith has stepped up his game as of late, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes. Finney-Smith had a season-high 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists against San Antonio on Friday. “When you take your mind off the shooting, it kind of takes the pressure away,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there with a lot of energy and shoot the ball with confidence — and worry about [shooting percentage] less.” Finney-Smith, who added eight points against Denver on Monday, will be a free agent after the season.
  • Pelicans first-year Willie Green has kept a consistent message despite the team’s struggles, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Green has emphasized effort, relentlessness and competitiveness, and the players have remained in his corner. “Willie has the ultimate trust in me to go out there and play my game and play with confidence,” Josh Hart said.
  • Maxi Kleber is “progressing” from his left oblique strain, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) and other media members. He has begun doing on-court drills but he’s not doing any contact yet. He suffered the injury on October 31.