Eastern Notes: Atkinson, Cavs, Wizards, Wagner, Hawks, More

Discussing the Cavaliers‘ head coaching search this week on an episode of the No Cap Room podcast (YouTube link), Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports described Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as the candidate who “seems to be the leader in the clubhouse right now.” Atkinson has also been linked to another coaching search this spring, according to Fischer.

“Kenny Atkinson was definitely a name involved in the Wizards‘ search,” Fischer said. “… There was definitely expectation around the league that Kenny’s next job would be one of those more developmental teams on the up-and-up, which in theory Cleveland still kind of is, but there are obvious expectations there now. So that would be a much different circumstance – probably a better circumstance, I would say – for Kenny Atkinson, to shed that ‘I’m a rebuild guy’ label.”

Fischer confirms that James Borrego of the Pelicans and Johnnie Bryant of the Knicks are a couple more assistant coaches who are candidates for the Cavaliers’ job, citing Bryant’s connection to Donovan Mitchell dating back to their time in Utah together.

According to Fischer, former Sacramento head coach Dave Joerger is another candidate who will receive consideration from Cleveland. Joerger was hired by the Bucks as an assistant coach after Doc Rivers joined the team earlier this year.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Franz Wagner won’t soon forget his performance in Orlando’s Game 7 first-round loss to Cleveland (six points on 1-of-15 shooting), but his goal is to turn it into a learning experience rather than beating himself up about it, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “That’s going to stick with me all summer,” Wagner said. “Hopefully, I can use it as motivation and fuel that the right way.” As Beede observes, Wagner will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, and while the Magic will likely look to lock him up, it remains to be seen whether the team is prepared to go up to the max to get something done before the 22-year-old’s fourth NBA season.
  • In a 2024 draft class considered to lack star power, whichever player is selected with the No. 1 overall pick will benefit from not being asked to single-handedly turn a franchise around. As Marc J. Spears of ESPN pointed out on the Hawks Report podcast (link via Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the No. 1 pick will be joining a Hawks roster that features more talent than a typical club drafting in that spot. Even if Atlanta trades one of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason, the team would still have one former All-Star in its backcourt, along with promising 22-year-old Jalen Johnson at forward.
  • The WNBA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted this week to approve an expansion franchise for Toronto, while the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 29-1 in favor of the move, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Unsurprisingly, as Wojnarowski details, the only opposing vote belonged to the Knicks, who sued the Raptors last season and remain engaged in a legal battle with their Atlantic rivals. Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum is spearheading Toronto’s new WNBA franchise.

Latest On NBA’s Media Rights Negotiations

The NBA is expected to formalize written contracts this week with Disney (ESPN/ABC), NBC, and Amazon for their media rights, according to Tom Friend of Sports Business Journal, who provides the following tentative details on the three deals:

  • ESPN/ABC (“A” package): $2.8 billion per year; likely to include NBA Finals, one conference final, weekly prime-time games, the WNBA, and shared international rights.
  • NBC (“B” package): $2.6 billion per year; likely to include “Basketball Night in America” on Sundays, two prime-time windows per week, conference semifinals, and one conference final.
  • Amazon (“C” package): $1.8-2 billion per year; likely to include the in-season tournament, the play-in tournament, first-round playoff games, the WNBA, and shared international rights.

The parties are in the process of tweaking their agreements, says Friend, explaining that once the terms are finalized, the networks will take them to their respective boards to have the bids ratified. At that point, the NBA is expected to circle back to longtime television partner Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT Sports) to see if WBD wants to exercise its matching rights on NBC’s offer.

According to Friend, the expectation is that the NBA will argue that TNT doesn’t have the right to simply match NBC’s bid from a dollar-for-dollar perspective, since TNT lacks the over-the-air broadcast infrastructure that NBC can offer. Previous reporting stated that the league would want at least $300MM more from Warner Bros. Discovery for the same package of games that NBC is bidding on.

As Friend details, if Warner Bros. Discovery doesn’t want to lose the NBA and isn’t willing to pay that added cost for the “B” package, the company could take the NBA to court and contest the league’s definition of what constitutes a matching offer. Sources tell the Sports Business Journal that the NBA is preparing its lawyers for a potential inquisition or lawsuit.

Disney was more proactive than WBD during the exclusive negotiating window that ESPN/ABC and TNT Sports were afforded earlier this year, per Friend, increasing its offer to $2.8 billion per year after paying $1.4 billion in its last deal with the NBA.

WBD, meanwhile, believed it would only have to bump its offer from $1.2 billion in the previous media deal to about $1.8-2.1 billion this time around, according to Friend, who says that’s a key reason why the NBA took that package of games to the open marketplace and found a more appealing offer from NBC.

The league’s current media rights deal will expire after the 2024/25 season, with the new agreement taking effect in ’25/26.

Latest On NBA’s Media Rights Negotiations

With the exclusive negotiating window for the NBA, ESPN, and TNT Sports set to close at the end of the day on Monday, Andrew Marchand of The Athletic checks in on where things stand for the league and its next media rights deal, with the current agreement set to expire at the end of the 2024/25 season.

As Marchand details, ESPN/ABC and TNT remain “intensely” interested in retaining their NBA rights and may well do so, but the league anticipates reaching deals on at least three separate TV packages – and possibly four – so at least one new partner is expected to enter the mix.

While the league will almost certainly talk to major streamers like Netflix, Apple, and Google/YouTube, the perceived favorite among those streamers is Amazon Prime Video, according to Marchand, who observes that Amazon has had success with an NFL Thursday Night Football package. Amazon is only interested in an NBA deal if it can secure a regular season and postseason package of “high-level” games, sources tell Marchand.

NBC, which was a key NBA partner during the era in which Michael Jordan‘s Bulls won six championships, remains interested in reuniting with the league, Marchand writes. NBC Universal chairman Mark Lazarus was with TNT when it brought the NBA to its network and has close ties with top league officials, per Marchand, who adds that NBC could incorporate its own streaming service (Peacock) into a potential agreement.

Back in 2014, the NBA struck a nine-year, $24 billion agreement with ESPN/ABC and TNT Sports well before their exclusive negotiating window closed, but the negotiations this time around are more complex, given the changing media landscape and the league’s desire to make streaming its principal distribution method, Marchand writes.

Here’s more from The Athletic’s report:

  • The NBA is seeking contracts of at least 10 years in its next media deal, according to Marchand.
  • The league is expected to look into the idea of partnering with a company like ESPN, Amazon, Apple, or Google/YouTube (or possibly more than one of them) to offer local games direct to viewers, Marchand says. The model the NBA is considering wouldn’t give those outlets exclusive local rights, but would be intended to give as many fans as possible access to games locally as cable diminishes.
  • Currently, ABC airs the NBA Finals, while ESPN and TNT show the conference finals. Those companies want to retain those high-end playoff series, but the idea of a streamer like Amazon getting the rights to conference finals or even NBA Finals games at some point in the next decade is a real possibility, says Marchand.
  • Given the increasing popularity of women’s college basketball stars, led by Caitlin Clark, there’s optimism about the WNBA receiving a significant bump in viewership in the coming years. WNBA media rights will be part of these negotiations, and – as Marchand puts it – the women’s league has “more currency in these negotiations than the last ones by a wide margin.”

Lore, A-Rod Dispute Taylor’s Claim To Wolves Ownership

On Thursday morning, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor announced that he will retain his majority stake in the franchise after the final purchase option held by minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez expired on Wednesday.

That would leave Taylor with about a 60% stake in the Wolves and WNBA’s Lynx, with Lore and Rodriguez controlling approximately 40%. The final option would have seen Lore and Rodriguez become the majority owners with an 80% stake, while Taylor would have retained 20%.

In Taylor’s press release, he also said the Wolves and Lynx are no longer for sale.

However, in their own statement this afternoon, Lore and Rodriguez disputed Taylor’s claim to ownership, and they believe they should — and will — become majority owners, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

We are disappointed with Glen Taylor’s public statement today. We have fulfilled our obligations, have all necessary funding and are fully committed to closing our purchase of the team as soon as the NBA completes its approval process.

Glen Taylor’s statement is an unfortunate case of seller’s remorse that is short sighted and disruptive to the team and the fans during a historic winning season.”

Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) that the relationship between Taylor and Lore and Rodriguez has “disintegrated over the past two-plus years.” That reporting certainly seems to align with today’s contentious news.

As Krawczynski writes in a full story for The Athletic, the next steps aren’t immediately clear. A week ago, Lore and Rodriguez submitted the financial documentation they believed was necessary to complete the purchase. But Taylor says the duo failed to reach several key benchmarks in the purchase agreement.

According to Krawcyznski, the purchase agreement calls for third-party mediation and arbitration to resolve disputes like the one currently unfolding. Whatever happens next, it doesn’t seem like the situation will be resolved anytime soon.

There’s no indication the dispute has disrupted Minnesota’s play on the court — the Wolves are in the midst of their first 50-win season in two decades. The timing is certainly unfortunate though, with only 10 regular season games remaining before the playoffs get underway next month.

Since 2021, Lore and Rodriguez have been involved in the purchase of the Wolves for $1.5 billion on a multi-phase payment plan. They were reportedly instrumental in recruiting president of basketball operations Tim Connelly away from the Nuggets in 2022.

Vince Carter, Chauncey Billups Among Hall Of Fame Finalists

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 14 finalists for 2024 on Friday evening (via Twitter), with former NBA stars Vince Carter and Chauncey Billups among the nominees. Billups is currently head coach of the Trail Blazers.

Here’s the full list of finalists:

  • Chauncey Billups — Five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA, two-time All-Defense, one-time champion, 2003/04 Finals MVP (Pistons)
  • Vince Carter — NBA-record 22 seasons, 25,728 career points (23rd in NBA/ABA history), eight-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA, 1998/99 Rookie of the Year
  • Michael Cooper — Five-time NBA champion, eight-time All-Defense, 1986/87 Defensive Player of the Year (all with the Lakers)
  • Walter Davis — Six-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA, 1977/78 Rookie of the Year, Suns‘ all-time leading scorer
  • Bo Ryan — Former head coach of Wisconsin, four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year
  • Charles Smith — Winningest high school head coach in Louisiana history
  • Seimone Augustus — Four-time WNBA champion, eight-time All-Star, 2006 Rookie of the Year
  • Marian Washington — Longtime former head coach of Kansas (women’s)
  • Dick Barnett — Two-time NBA champion, one-time All-Star, three-time NAIA champion at Tennessee A&I
  • Harley Redin — Former men’s and women’s coach of Wayland Baptist University (Texas)
  • Michele Timms — One-time WNBA All-Star, Olympic bronze and silver medals with Australian national team
  • Doug Collins — Former NBA player, coach and broadcaster *
  • Herb Simon Pacers owner *
  • Jerry West — Four NBA championships as an executive with the Lakers (he’s already in the Hall of Fame as a player) *

* Nominated as contributors

The Class of 2024 will be unveiled on Saturday, April 6 during the NCAA’s Final Four. The enshrinement ceremony for 2024’s Hall of Fame inductees will take place on Saturday, August 17.

Unbelievable,” Carter said of being a finalist, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “You look in the crowd, you see Hall of Famers, and the opportunity … I mean, you can’t beat that. You can’t beat that. It’s a proud moment.”

Everybody that enters the NBA … it’s their dream. It’s basically basketball heaven to be in the Hall of Fame,” Billups told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter links). “That was never my goal when I was playing. I just wanted to try to win and be the best teammate I could be. … I’m just humbled by today. Just being close to it is an honor. I know I’m not there, but I’m closer. It’s a straight honor.”

According to Reynolds, four others were honored by the Hall of Fame as well. JoAn Scott, the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball, received the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. J.A. Adande and Debbie Antonelli received the Curt Gowdy Awards for print and electronic journalism, respectively, while Slam Magazine and the television show “NBA Inside Stuff” received the award for transformative media.

NBA Announces Player Pool For 2024 Rising Stars Event

The NBA has officially revealed the 11 rookies, 10 sophomores, and seven G League players who will take part in the Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis next month.

The following players, as voted on by NBA coaching staffs, made the cut:



G League Players

As was the case last season, the Rising Stars event will consist of four teams and three games. The seven G League players will comprise one team, coached by former NBA forward Detlef Schrempf. The other 21 players will be drafted to three squads coached by former NBA and WNBA stars Pau Gasol, Jalen Rose, and Tamika Catchings.

The four teams will be split into two first-round matchups and the winners of those two games will face one another for the Rising Stars championship. The two semifinals will be played to a target score of 40 points, while the final will be played to a target score of 25 points.

All three contests will take place on Friday, February 16 as part of All-Star weekend’s opening night.

And-Ones: Cauley-Stein, Rondo, Curry/Ionescu, Silver, Morant

Longtime NBA big man Willie Cauley-Stein, whose last brief stint in the league came with the Rockets at the end of the 2022/23 season, has signed with Indios de Mayaguez, the Puerto Rican team announced (Facebook link).

The sixth overall pick in 2015, Cauley-Stein signed with Italian club Pallacanestro Varese last summer, but the two sides parted ways in December, freeing up the veteran center to join a new team.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Four-time NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo was arrested on Sunday in Indiana for unlawful possession of a firearm, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana, reports Jason Riley of WDRB.com. An initial court hearing has been scheduled for February 27. Rondo appeared in nearly 1,100 total regular season and playoff games from 2006-22 but hasn’t been in the NBA since finishing the 2021/22 season with Cleveland.
  • The NBA confirmed on Tuesday in a press release that Warriors star Stephen Curry and WNBA sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu will compete in a one-on-one three-point contest for charity on All-Star Saturday next month. Ionescu, who racked up 37 of 40 possible points in the final round of last season’s WNBA three-point contest, will shoot from the WNBA three-point line using WNBA balls, while Curry shoots from the NBA three-point line using NBA balls.
  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press lays out why Adam Silver‘s contract extension as NBA commissioner was seemingly a “no-brainer,” noting that that seems to be the consensus among players around the league as well. “Our league, from the time that I came in until now, it’s 10 times better,” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “Everything’s more organized. … I think he’s done a tremendous job. He’s definitely a max player.”
  • Grizzlies star Ja Morant is launching an AAU basketball program called “Twelve Time” that will be based in South Carolina and Georgia. Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story.

And-Ones: Hall Of Fame, Carter, 2025 AmeriCup, McLemore

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has officially revealed its list of eligible candidates for the Class of 2024, announcing in a press release that this year’s group of first-time nominees includes longtime NBA star Vince Carter, who made eight All-Star teams and appeared in 1,541 regular season games across 22 seasons in the league.

Former Pistons big man Bill Laimbeer, four-time WNBA champion Seimone Augustus, and longtime NCAA head coach Rick Barnes are among the other nominees who are eligible for the first time in 2024.

Finalists will be announced during the NBA’s All-Star weekend on Friday, February 16, while the Class of 2024 will be unveiled on Saturday, April 6 during the NCAA’s Final Four. The enshrinement ceremony for 2024’s Hall of Fame inductees will take place on Saturday, August 17.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The 2025 FIBA AmeriCup will be played in Managua, Nicaragua from August 23-31, 2025, FIBA announced today in a press release. The qualifiers for the event will take place across three windows in February 2024, November 2024, and February 2025. Brazil hosted the last AmeriCup in 2022, losing to Argentina in the final. The U.S. team – which featured former NBAers like Norris Cole, Gary Clark, Jodie Meeks, and Patrick McCaw – placed third in ’22.
  • In honor of the holidays, John Hollinger of The Athletic shares his “All-Stocking Stuffer Team,” which is made up of overlooked players who have emerged as unexpected contributors over the course of this season. Magic center Goga Bitadze, Kings guard Keon Ellis, Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio, and Nets center Day’Ron Sharpe are a few of the players singled out by Hollinger.
  • Veteran guard Ben McLemore, who signed with AEK Athens in August, has officially left the Greek team and is joining CB Breogan in Spain, writes Aris Barkas of Eurohoops. McLemore parted ways with AEK B.C. earlier in the month and was said to be in advanced talks with a Turkish club before lining up a deal with CB Breogan instead.

Wizards Announce Plan To Move From D.C. To Virginia

Monumental Sports, the Ted Leonsis-led company that owns the Wizards, has formally announced a plan to move the team from D.C. to Alexandria, Virginia. The NHL’s Washington Capitals, which are also controlled by Monumental Sports, would be part of the move too.

Virginia state lawmakers voted on Monday to move forward with a proposal to build a new arena and “entertainment district” in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood, according to a report from The Washington Post. The plan still requires approval from the full General Assembly and local officials.

According to today’s announcement, the goal is to have the arena completed and the Wizards and Capitals moved in for 2028.

“We are committed to providing world-class fan experiences while continuously evolving our teams, deepening community ties, and solidifying our role as leaders at the forefront of sports and technology,” Leonsis said in a statement. “The opportunity to expand to this 70-acre site in Virginia, neighboring industry-leading innovators, and a great academic partner, would enable us to further our creativity and achieve next-generation, leading work – all while keeping our fans and the community at the forefront of everything we do.”

Monumental Sports’ announcement and the Washington Post’s reporting indicates that the Virginia plan will be a public-private partnership, with money coming from both Leonsis and local taxpayers.

As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes, Washington, D.C. city officials have been making an effort to keep the Wizards in the downtown Capital One Arena, where the Wizards and Capitals have played since 1997. Leonsis has been seeking $600MM in public funds to renovate the arena; on Monday, mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new bill offering Monumental Sports $500MM in financing for that project.

“This proposal represents our best and final offer and is the next step in partnering with Monumental Sports to breathe new life and vibrancy into the neighborhood and to keep the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals where they belong — in Washington, DC,” Bowser said, per Wojnarowski.

However, it sounds like that bill may be in vain, as Leonsis’ priority now is to move forward with the new entertainment district in Alexandria. The proposed complex would feature a new arena, a practice facility for the Wizards, Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s corporate headquarters, a media studio for Monumental Sports Network, a performing arts venue, and an expanded esports facility.

Assuming the Virginia plan proceeds without any snags, Leonsis’ goal is to update Capital One Arena to be a flexible arena that could host between 10,000 and 20,000 people and would continue to host concerts, sports, and other events — it would also become the home arena for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

As Wojnarowski writes, Leonsis’ teams have the ability to exit their lease with Capital One Arena in 2027. The Alexandria plan calls for a Virginia stadium authority to own the proposed complex and lease it to Monumental Sports & Entertainment, according to The Washington Post’s report, which says Monumental would have a lease in excess of 30 years.

Wolves Notes: Edwards, Finch, Reid, Ownership

Anthony Edwards is already one of the NBA’s top players, but he suggested this week that he might want to see how he could fare in the NFL, according to an ESPN report. Appearing with comedian Marco Summers on his “Open Thoughts” talk show, Edwards said “I might be the first one” to succeed in both leagues.

It’s unlikely the Timberwolves would agree to let Edwards risk his future by playing football after signing him to an extension that could be worth more than $205MM over five years. However, it would be intriguing in theory to watch Edwards give the NFL a try after being one of the nation’s best Pop Warner running backs as a youth. While speculating about a football career, Edwards emphasized to Summers that his priority is to “handle his business in the NBA.”

“As a team, [the] Minnesota [Timberwolves] organization, we want to win a championship,” he said. “After that, we’ll figure that out.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • The Wolves will eventually face salary decisions and second-apron concerns, but fans should enjoy a team that has become one of the NBA’s best rather than worrying about what might happen in 2024 or 2025, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Holding the top spot in the West at 11-3, Minnesota is off to its best start ever and may be a legitimate contender for the first time in the franchise’s 35-year history. There’s a stronger focus, Krawczynski notes, as players who may have overlooked some opponents last season are now locked in every night. “I think it’s very much a serious tone,” coach Chris Finch said. “There’s a conversation about what needs to be done, what they hadn’t done.” 
  • Part of the increased focus comes from resolving financial situations during the offseason, Krawczynski adds. Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson are the only rotation members with expiring contracts, and Krawczyski believes they’re mature enough that it won’t affect their performance. “Everybody’s here to win. Everybody has one goal. Everybody’s got their money situation out of the way,” said Naz Reid, who signed a three-year, $42MM contract extension this summer. “Now we’re here to play basketball and win the game. We’re not really too much worried about anything other than that.”
  • New owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore are negotiating with the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, to invest in the Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, sources tell Dan Primack of Axios. Primack believes the move will help to quell rumors that Rodriguez and Lore might not have the funding to complete the remainder of the sale from Glen Taylor.