Willie Green

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.

Southwest Notes: Kevin Porter Jr., Spurs, Hart, Ingram

Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. has developed a unique sensibility in his new role this season as Houston’s starting point guard, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Porter calls his own style “Scoot ball.”

“Basketball today is hardly traditional,” said Porter of his role with the Rockets. “I tried to become a traditional (point guard), but that’s not me at all. I’m ‘Scoot.’ I get a bucket or set my guy up.”

The 6’4″ guard, who was a small forward during his rookie season with the Cavaliers and a shooting guard last year with the Rockets, is averaging 13.3 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.2 RPG and 1.2 SPG for a tanking Houston club in the second season of a rebuild.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs forward Doug McDermott was well aware of teen rookie shooting guard Joshua Primo years before they were teammates, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News details. “I’ve been impressed with him for a long time,” McDermott said. “My dad [Creighton head coach Greg McDermott] recruited him really hard at Creighton. I think it came down to Creighton and Alabama. So I’ve been watching Josh for a long time. I’ve always known he was going to be a hell of a player.” The 18-year-old Primo is currently logging significant minutes with San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. “[My college decision] came down to [Creighton] and Alabama,” Primo confirmed. “I went to Alabama, but we still kept in touch.”
  • Pelicans guard Josh Hart appreciates new head coach Willie Green‘s confidence in his shot creation, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “Willie has 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.”
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram returned to action following a seven-game absence due to a hip contusion, and his activity helped fuel just the second New Orleans victory of the year, a 112-101 defeat of the Grizzlies. William Guillory of The Athletic examines how Ingram’s 19 points helped the Pelicans end their nine-game losing streak. Ingram addressed the calming influence of new head coach Willie Green through a tumultuous start to the club’s 2021/22 season. “(He’s) just keeping guys positive — making sure their heads (are) up, making sure they’re staying confident in everything that they’re doing,” Ingram said. “Our guys have put in the work. He sees that, and he just wants everybody to be successful on the basketball floor.”

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Zion, Murphy, Succession Plan

As he prepares to play for his third head coach in the past three seasons, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is looking for more stability under Willie Green, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Ingram has added some muscle mass to his lean frame, and he thinks it will help him be more efficient around the rim.

I thought it would help my game out a lot, just the way I’m playing,” Ingram said. “Driving to the basket. Taking a lot of contact. I wanted to be able to deliver the blows. Being able to finish. Being in good, low positions. And being able to finish. It was something I just wanted to work on this summer.

Ingram has also taken on a leadership role for the Pelicans, Clark notes, helping to organize voluntary workouts in Phoenix over the summer. Green believes the key to Ingram’s new role as a team leader is to be himself.

I’m looking forward to seeing him lead in his way. I think that’s the key for Brandon. Not to try to do something that is not him. I can see that early with who he is and what his personality is. He’s been great all summer.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • William Guillory of The Athletic recently spoke to Jeff Stotts, a certified athletic trainer who runs a website tracking injuries and how they affect NBA players, about whether Zion Williamson‘s injury might be a cause for long-term concern. Stotts says that Williamson’s fractured fifth metatarsal on his right foot has a relatively high re-injury rate, and can be especially problematic for larger players, noting that Kevin Durant, Brook Lopez, and Glen Davis all suffered setbacks with similar injuries. Guillory adds that this is the third injury to Zion’s right leg since 2019, which is certainly worrisome. However, Stotts says that Pelicans head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson is elite, as his teams have consistently been in the top tier for fewest games missed due to injury or illness, and Robin Lopez had a successful recovery from the same injury while under Nelson’s care in Phoenix.
  • Rookie Trey Murphy is “one of many” players in the running for a starting roster spot, Clark writes for NOLA.com. Clark thinks Murphy’s ability to space the floor and make quick reads could be a nice complement for stars Ingram and Williamson.
  • Pelicans owner Gayle Benson recently revealed the franchise’s long-term succession plan, per Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, with the primary goal to keep the team in New Orleans.

And-Ones: Lingering Questions, Ref Vaccinations, Noel, Jenkins, Mathias

The NBA’s summer of player movement may be winding down, but there are still some questions looming over teams. An ESPN panel of insiders looked at some of them on Thursday (before the Lauri MarkkanenLarry NanceDerrick Jones Jr. three team deal broke).

Among the predictions that were made: Nick Friedell believes Damian Lillard will eventually end up with the Knicks, just not in the immediate future; Kirk Goldsberry thinks that J.J. Redick will end up with the Nets; Andrew Lopez predicts Paul Millsap will start the season not on a roster, but will be picked up mid-season.

The crew also looks at which new coaches have the hardest road ahead: Chauncey Billups with the Blazers and Willie Green with the Pelicans each received two votes, while Jason Kidd with the Mavericks received one.

And, of course, the much-discussed Ben SimmonsSixers impasse was the first topic of debate.

We have more news from around the world of hoops:

  • The NBA will require its referees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, barring medical or religious exemptions, the league announced today. A report from ESPN laid out the scope of the policy, including that referees will receive booster shots once those become recommended, and that refs without an approved exemption who aren’t vaccinated will not be eligible to work games.
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel‘s lawsuit has the potential to change the NBA-agent landscape, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Fischer writes that as opposed to the league’s tampering rules between teams and players, there are no such prohibitions on agents trying to poach clients, and that this unprecedented peek behind the curtain could give the league incentive to put some protections in place.
  • John Jenkins has signed with BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque in France, reports Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw (via Twitter). Jenkins played eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 5.0 PPG while shooting 36.7% from three on 319 career attempts. Jenkins recently participated with the Team USA select team as Team USA prepared for their eventual gold medal run.
  • Dakota Mathias has agreed to sign with the G League Ignite, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The 26-year-old played eight games for the Sixers as one of their two-way contracts last season, and Scotto reports that several teams have interest in him as a two-way player again this year. Mathias averaged six PPG and 1.6 APG in 15.4 minutes a night for Philadelphia.

Pelicans Notes: Hernangomez, Jones, Murphy, Marshall, Green

Willy Hernangomez‘s new three-year contract with the Pelicans will be fully guaranteed for the first two years with a team option for year three, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lopez also provides the year-by-year breakdown of Hernangomez’s new deal. The Pelicans held the big man’s Non-Bird rights, giving them the ability to offer a starting salary worth 120% of his $1,939,350 minimum salary. That means Hernangomez will earn $2,327,220 in 2021/22, with 5% annual raises on that amount. The three-year contract will be worth about $7.33MM in total.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Herb Jones‘ three-year contract with the Pelicans will be worth more than the minimum for the first two seasons, according to Lopez, who tweets that the No. 35 pick will earn $1.7MM in 2021/22 and $1.785MM in ’22/23. Both of those amounts will be fully guaranteed, followed by a minimum-salary ($1.836MM) team option in ’23/24. New Orleans is using a small part of its mid-level exception on Jones.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic checks in on the Pelicans who have turned heads at the Las Vegas Summer League, writing that Trey Murphy and Naji Marshall look capable of emerging as regular rotation players on the wing. New head coach Willie Green has also done a good job emphasizing ball movement and defensive activity, according to Guillory, who says those are two areas the team needs to improve in 2021/22.
  • After reaching a deal with restricted free agent Josh Hart, the Pelicans look like they’ll be just about finished with their offseason business, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The team will have 15 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to rely heavily on internal growth from its young players in order to compete for a playoff spot in 2021/22.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Batum, Finley, Kerr, Green

The five-team trade the Spurs are involved in continues a trend of the teamstockpiling draft picks, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News notes. The Spurs will gain a 2022 second-round pick along with Chandler Hutchison from the Wizards in the agreed-upon multi-team swap, highlighted by the Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook. San Antonio is also acquiring three picks – a first-rounder and two second-rounders – in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade with the Bulls.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks were among the teams interested in Clippers forward Nicolas Batum before he agreed to re-sign with Los Angeles, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. The Warriors also checked in on Batum before he chose to take a two-year deal with a player option from the Clippers.
  • The Mavericks have officially announced the promotion of Michael Finley to assistant GM/VP of basketball operations, the team’s PR department tweets. Finley will work under new president of basketball operations Nico Harrison in his expanded front office role.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is ecstatic that one of his former assistants, Willie Green, got the Pelicans‘ head coaching job and believes he’ll have little trouble growing into the role, Kerr told William Guillory of The Athletic. “There’s just kind of this quiet dignity and intelligence about him that the players will really appreciate,” Kerr said. “And then I think, like all coaches, he’s going to have to find his voice and find his style. I’m sure he’s going to hire a great staff to help him do that. And he’ll grow into the job, but I think he’ll be fantastic.”

Chris Paul Considered Likely To Remain With Suns

Chris Paul will likely remain with the Suns on a contract for at least three years and $90MM, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Fischer writes that the veteran point guard “appears all but destined to return to Phoenix.”

Paul holds a $44.2MM option on his contract for next season. He could opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, then re-sign with the club for multiple years. Alternatively, he could opt in and sign an extension.

The Pelicans were eager to acquire Paul, which would have given them a top-notch veteran floor leader to pair with franchise player Zion Williamson. Newly-hired head coach Willie Green has a close relationship with Paul and the perennial All-Star lobbied Houston’s front office to hire Green as an assistant when he played there. New Orleans tried to bring in Paul via a trade last off-season before he was acquired by the Suns from Oklahoma City.

An ESPN report this week also noted the connection between Green and Paul and the likelihood of CP3 staying put. Suns GM James Jones had expressed optimism that Paul would remain with the club.

There had been talk around the league this week about Paul potentially bolting from the Western Conference champions, Fischer adds. One of those avenues was closed when the Lakers opted to trade for Russell Westbrook.

Salary-cap issues, plus a rivalry between the two franchises, essentially made a potential Suns-Lakers trade a moot point.