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NBA AM: Everyone Waiting On David Griffin?

Is Cavaliers GM David Griffin the key to the open executive jobs in Orlando and Atlanta?

Steve Kyler

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Everyone Waiting On Griffin?

Both the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks have open front office leadership jobs, and it does not look like either will fill them quickly.

The topic of both openings was something insiders at the annual NBA Draft Combine sort of snickered at when asked, because the process seems so transparent that few believe there will be a lot of searching.

The prevailing thought from several was that current Cavaliers general manager David Griffin would have his choice of jobs in Atlanta or Orlando and that once that decision was made, the teams losing out would move on to their backup candidate.

So here is the latest on each:

Orlando Magic

The Magic seem to be in a holding pattern, although several league sources say they have talked to a few candidates already and are waiting to meet with Griffin as soon as they are allowed.

The belief in NBA circles is that Griffin is seeking a compensation package that would put in him the top 10 percent of NBA executives. That kind of number seems too rich for the Cavaliers and it’s pushed the situation to a place where it’s likely Griffin leaves the Cavaliers for one of the open jobs.

The problem with the situation is it seems the Cavs will not grant permission for Griffin to speak with either the Magic or the Hawks until their season is over, which is what’s dragging the process out.

One league source cautioned that it’s not a given that either team hires Griffin, but that he is at the top of both teams’ list to at least speak with before they make their decision.

The Magic did reach out of former Indiana president Larry Bird in hopes of luring him to Central Florida. Bird owns a home in Naples and was said to have considered the situation. Sources close to the situation said Bird was reluctant to jump into another role with another team citing Bird’s relentless loyalty to the Simon family and the Pacers.

Bird apparently wants a break from the daily grind of the NBA. While both the Pacers and the Magic seemed open to Bird defining his own day-to-day schedule, sources said Bird only does things one way, and he was unwilling to commit at this point, opting to stay on with the Pacers as an advisor and take what was called “a much-needed break.”

While the Magic seem to have Griffin as next on their list, there was also a lot of talk that current Bucks general manager John Hammonds could be the second option should Griffin pass or not be the guy after interviews.

Hammonds is currently entering the final year of his deal in Milwaukee. He hired Justin Zanik away from the Jazz with the promise that he’d eventually replace Hammonds in 2018.

Sources close to Hammonds said that he’s not ready to retire and there was some talk that given the Bucks’ success, they may want to hang onto Hammonds a bit longer than planned when the Bucks did his contract extension.

As the Magic wait out the process with Griffin and Hammonds, there is a scenario in which the team could get neither guy.

The Magic did retain assistant general manager Matt Lloyd, who ran the combine process for the Magic and is overseeing draft prospect workouts for the Magic on an interim basis.

It’s possible that the Magic hang on to Lloyd in several scenarios, especially if they miss on proven “named” guys.

The Magic are believed to have reached out to former Rockets coach Kevin McHale and to former Pacers and Bucks executive David Morway, who was at the combine in Chicago.

Atlanta Hawks

Like the Magic, the Hawks are believed to be holding the process while they wait to get permission to speak with Griffin. Like the Magic, the Hawks seem willing to meet a hefty price tag to get the right leader at the top of the franchise, after pivoting away from the president-coach dynamic under Mike Budenholzer.

As one long-time league insider pointed out, NBA teams seem to be learning that coaches tend to think in the short term of what they need to win right now, and usually are not forward thinking in their process. The front office job requires forward planning, which is a very different skill set and perspective.

Sources say while the Hawks did reorganize some job responsibilities in their front office, they did not cut people’s compensation, so this was not a cost-saving move.

According to sources at the Combine, the Hawks seem to have locked in on two candidates; Griffin and former Pistons executive Joe Dumars. There were reports that Thunder executive Troy Weaver was a candidate but was deemed unlikely according to sources at the Combine.

While Dumars has his critics, he does have a strong background and track record in the NBA and does have close ties to Hawks minority owner Grant Hill, who is playing an increased role in the direction of the Hawks along with majority owner Tony Ressler.

It seems the Hawks will make their final decision after they get a chance to meet with Griffin.

Cleveland Cavaliers

While Griffin is currently the candidate both the Hawks and the Magic seem to be waiting to talk with, the Cavs still can win the day with him.

Sources familiar with the situation say that Griffin and the Cavaliers had agreed to table his deal until the season is over. This was after initial extension talks did not produce a deal. Those same sources said it’s possible the Cavs and Griffin reach a new deal, especially with so many teams seemingly open to poaching him away and the Cavs looking at a possible repeat in the NBA Finals.

However, Griffin will be a free agent at season end and could opt to walk away, especially for the right opportunity.

If the Cavs lose Griffin, it becomes interesting in terms of where they would turn. The Cavs do not have an in-house candidate that anyone at the combine would endorse as a likely successor, given the complexities of the Cleveland job.

While many joke that Cavs forward LeBron James runs the team, he is not the guy managing the luxury tax, the draft or trades. The Cavs have to basically rebuild their bench every offseason because of their salary cap situation, so the Cavs know they need a proven and creative operator if they do lose Griffin to another team.

The top names in the assistant GM world continue to be Golden State’s Travis Schlenk, Miami’s Adam Simon, and the Thunder’s Troy Weaver.

However, if the Cavs job does come open, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have a wider field to choose from.

The prevailing belief last week in Chicago is that none of the open jobs will get decided until those teams get a chance to formally speak with Griffin, thus, making it likely both situations linger until mid-to-late June when the Cavs season finally ends. It also explains why both teams opted to hang on to the guys currently running their draft process until a decision and a hire is finally made.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible@TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton@jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_ and @Ben__Nadeau.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA

David Nwaba and the Road Less Traveled

David Nwaba speaks to Basketball Insiders about his unconventional path to the NBA.

David Yapkowitz

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A player’s path to the NBA usually follows the same formula: A star in high school, a strong college career, and then eventually being selected in the NBA Draft. However, there are times when a player’s path is more unconventional. In the case of David Nwaba, he definitely took the path less traveled.

He attended University High School in West Los Angeles, where he was named All-Western League MVP twice as well as being an all-league selection. He finished his senior year in 2011 putting up 22.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game.

He went to an NCAA Division 2 school, however, Hawaii Pacific University, but never suited up for them as he redshirted his freshman year. He played a year at Santa Monica Community College, where he was the Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to Nwaba, the decision to leave Hawaii Pacific was made with the NBA in mind.

“It was always a dream of mine, it’s also why I left a Division 2 school that I started at,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I had bigger dreams of playing D1 and potentially the NBA. So that was a dream of mine. I never thought the journey would go like this but it is how it is.”

Behind Nwaba, Cal Poly made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2014. They won the Big West Tournament as the seventh seed out of eight teams, and then knocked off Dayton for the right to come in as a No. 16 seed against No. 1 seed Wichita State. Cal Poly would go on to lose to Wichita State, but sparking that run to March Madness put Nwaba on the basketball map.

He didn’t get to the NBA right away, though. His first professional experience came with the then Los Angeles D-Fenders, now South Bay Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers G-League affiliate. He initially began with the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings affiliate, but his rights were traded to Los Angeles. His strong play in the G-League was what caught the Lakers’ attention, enough to give him a pair of 10-day contracts, and then one for the rest of the season.

“It was a perfect spot to start up my professional career The G-League is a place to develop your game, and I think I developed a lot,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “I learned a lot about the game, and I think it was a good place for me to start just out of college.”

Although he made a strong impression on the Lakers, Nwaba found out that nothing is ever guaranteed in the NBA. Due to a roster crunch when the team signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer, the Lakers ended up cutting him. He didn’t stay unemployed for long though. Before he had a chance to hit the open market, the Chicago Bulls claimed him off waivers.

He’s since carved out a role as one of the Bulls most dependable players in the second unit. And just like his path to the league, his role is a bit of an unconventional one as a shooting guard. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the field, but most of his shots come from in the paint. He only shoots 26.3 percent from three-point range. It’s been effective for him though.

“It’s just bringing energy off the bench and just being that defender,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “For the most part, I just try to be aggressive going to the basket, finishing at the rim, making the right plays, just defending and playing hard.”

The Chicago Bulls got off to a slow start this season. They lost 17 of their first 20 games. In December, they started to pick up their play, winning 11 of their 20 games including a seven-game win streak. However, they’ve now dropped eight of their last 11 games. Despite that, Nwaba does see some encouraging signs. And in the Eastern Conference, he’s not quite ready to count out another run.

“We’re developing every game, just building chemistry amongst each other,” Nwaba told Basketball Insiders. “Who knows, all it takes is just a streak of eight to ten games or something and we’re already back in the playoff race. You never know, anything can turn around. It’s still a long season, a lot of games to be played, and a lot of time to develop our game. We’ve still got a lot of time with each other.”

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NBA Daily: The Los Angeles Lakers Could Be Up Next

The Los Angeles Lakers may not make the playoffs this season, but they’re trending in the right direction.

Dennis Chambers

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The Los Angeles Lakers are coming.

They may not be playoff-bound this season as some of their purple and gold faithful hoped for, but the prestigious franchise occupying the Staples Center is showing improvement from their young players. Perhaps even enough to lure the likes of established stars come summer time.

In Luke Walton’s second season as the Lakers’ head coach, he hits the All-Star break with his team holding a 23-34 record. Granted, that’s not the level of success he was used to during his time with the Golden State Warriors, but it is only three fewer wins than his team had all of last season.

Prior to limping into the break on the back of a three-game losing streak, the Lakers had won eight of 10. During that stretch, they’d beaten the likes of Oklahoma City (twice), Indiana, and Boston. Along with making the most of their performances over that span, the Lakers were also doing so without 2017’s second overall pick, Lonzo Ball, who’s sidelined with an injury.

But Ball isn’t the only Los Angeles darling who has shined this season. In fact, it’s arguable that he’s not even the most impressive youngster on the team.

Drafted second overall last season, Brandon Ingram is showing the improvement this season that warranted such a high selection. His play thus far suggests he’s one of the building blocks of the Lakers’ next era in contending for a championship.

In his 53 games this season, Ingram is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. His shooting from the floor and from beyond the arc have both seen dramatic increases as well this season. Over the same stretch that saw the Lakers go 8-2 with wins over cemented playoff teams, Ingram upped his assists per night to 5.2, taking the place of facilitator with Ball sidelined.

Though Ingram and the Lakers haven’t been setting the win column on fire all season, the steady growth and improvement show to him that the team is moving in the right direction, under the right coach.

“I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job,” Ingram said to reporters during All-Star weekend. “I think guys have gotten better every single day. I think we come in with the mindset that we have a really good coach that pushes us every single day. I like the progress of what we’re doing in our organization.”

Walton, this season more than last, has shown the ability to get the most out of the players he has. Ingram’s improvement, plus the capability as a point guard Ball has shown, are the givens. They were highly selected players, expected to contribute immediately. But it’s the production of the players who were afterthoughts that are a major testament to Walton’s teachings.

Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart were selected with the 27th and 30th picks in last June’s draft. Both were collegiate upperclassmen with noted handicaps in their respective games that led to teams selecting younger, or more athletic, or sweeter shooting players in their place.

A few years from now when everyone looks back, that could prove to be a silly mistake.

All Kuzma has done this season is keep his name consistently in the Rookie of the Year award race by averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and shooting nearly 36 percent from beyond the arc. He’s been a lightning rod of scoring for the Lakers on nights where they desperately need it, racking up 13 games where he’s reached at least 20 points, and three games breaking the 30-point plateau.

Hart, on the other hand, hasn’t been as steady a performer as his fellow late first-round selected teammate. But when called upon, especially since Ball has been out, Hart’s shown the all-around game that made him one of the most decorated players in college basketball while at Villanova.

Over the last month, Hart has averaged 8.8 points and five rebounds per game, while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc. During that same stretch, Hart’s scored in double-figures six times and registered three straight double-doubles at the beginning of February.

Moving forward, as the Lakers look to add high-priced free agent in the coming summers, having guys like Kuzma and Hart on cost-effective rookie contracts is a luxury teams around the league hope to have.

Diamonds in the rough like Kuzma and more than capable contributors like Hart are nice, of course, but the real reason for optimism in L.A. is Ingram. He’s the player with a star power ceiling. He’s the guy that the likes of LeBron James and Paul George look at when they weigh their free agent options, as a guy who can handle the workload on the nights they may not have it.

Ingram’s game isn’t finished, though; far from it, in fact. But he knows that, and he’s aware of the steps he needs to take to get to that next level.

“To improve my game I think from a shooting standpoint,” Ingram said. “If I get that down, I think it would be a lot more easier for me to drive to the basket, break down a lot of guys, make plays for my other teammates. I think it would take me to a whole other level.”

Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t come void of expectations. There, in Hollywood, everyone is always watching. Fans, other teams, the media, everyone is waiting for the next time a Laker championship comes around. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, Ingram thinks the current legend captaining the ship is the young team’s best asset to achieving that ultimate success everyone in Los Angeles is accustomed too.

“Magic Johnson,” Ingram said. “He’s in our front office. He’s at most of every practice, every single day. For any advice why not go to him, with the caliber of player he was and how many championships he won, the way he carries himself. He always there for just information on anything we need.”

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NBA All-Star Friday Recap

Simon Hannig recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2018.

Simon Hannig

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NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game was highlighted by many stars this year, including Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson, Candace Parker, Bubba Watson, Rachel DeMita and many more. Team Lakers was led by head coach, Rachel Nichols. Team Clippers was led by Katie Nolan.

Quavo, of hip hop group Migos, had the first the two points for Team Clippers, and Justin Bieber had the first three points for Team Lakers.

Team Clippers defeated Team Lakers 75-66.

Quavo led the way for Team Clippers with 19 points on 7/10 shooting, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse had 17 points on 8/14 shooting and 6 rebounds. Actor and social media star Brandon Armstrong finished with 16 points on 6/17 shooting, 11 rebounds and 3 assists for Team Clippers. Both wereamong the top three leading scorers for Team Clippers.

NBA2KTV host, actress and model, Rachel DeMita led the way for Team Lakers with 17 points on 6/12 shooting and 2 rebounds. NBA legend Nate Robinson was the second leading scorer for Team Lakers with 14 points on 4/11 shooting, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Other notable NBA and WNBA legends stats from tonight’s game — Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) had zero points. Paul Pierce had 4 points on 2/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Jason Williams had 2 points on 1/3 shooting and 1 rebound. Tracy McGrady had 3 points on 1/3 shooting, 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) had zero points.

Quavo was named MVP.

BBVA Compass Rising Stars Game

There is a ton of young talent in this league, and the league will be in good hands for years to come. The talent was put on display tonight in Los Angeles.

Utah Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell gave us an early preview of the dunk contest tomorrow by throwing an ally-oop pass to himself off the backboard in the first half.

However, it was all Team World in the first half as they led 78-59 at the break. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings each had 14 points to lead Team World. Jaylen Brown led the way for Team USA with 16 points at the half.

It felt like a three point contest throughout the entire game, as there were 96 combined three point attempts. Bogdanovic led the way with seven three pointers made for both teams.

All in all, Team World defeated Team USA 155-124. Hield led the way for Team World with 29 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics led the way for Team USA with 35 points and 10 rebounds.

The MVP of the game was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who dazzled the crowd with his three point shooting. He had 26 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds with seven made three’s.

Next up for the NBA in this fun-filled weekend is NBA All-Star Saturday Night with the dunk contest, three point contest and much more.

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