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NBA PM: Coaching Carousel Update

An update on the latest information on the five head coach searches going on across the NBA as things heat up on that front after the NBA Draft Lottery.

Yannis Koutroupis



The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers are currently in the midst of a head coaching search. Last week we saw two vacancies filled with Golden State’s hiring of Steve Kerr and Detroit’s hiring of Stan Van Gundy. With the NBA Draft Lottery now in the rear-view mirror, the coaching carousel is going to pick up even more steam. By the time the draft rolls around at the end of June, the five aforementioned teams should have their next sideline general tapped. Here’s a look at what we know about their searches now:

  • According to the New York Post, Knicks President Phil Jackson is considering a couple of his former point guards in Derek Fisher, who is currently playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Tyronn Lue, an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Brian Shaw, the head coach of the Denver Nuggets. Shaw is reportedly the favorite, but he has a couple of years remaining on his contract and up to this point has yet to voice any interest in leaving the Nuggets. The Nuggets would almost undoubtedly require compensation for the Knicks to hire Shaw. Formal permission has not been asked for by the Knicks yet. Kerr was Jackson’s top target and the two sides got as far as discussing contract structure, so Jackson has had to start over a bit and seems weeks away at best from getting the position filled.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers have begun the interview process now that they know where they are slated in the draft. Sources said that their direction could have changed had the won the lottery. Byron Scott and Mike Dunleavy were the first interviews in what Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is classifying as an extensive search. The last time the Lakers conducted a search was in-season and they didn’t really have the luxury of time. They had to make a decision quickly. This time around, they can be a little bit more methodical and thorough. The fact that they only have four players under contract makes it difficult to decide who is the best man to guide the team. However, without a coach in place they’re going to have a hard time luring in difference makers in free agency, so that domino has to drop first. Kupchak did mention that getting the most out of Kobe Bryant’s potential last two years is an important factor, which has created speculation that the Lakers could also try to hire Fisher, who won five championships alongside Bryant in the backcourt.
  • With a clear mandate, which has really been in place since last offseason, to get back to the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking at a wide variety of options to replace Mike Brown as well. They were initially interested in trying to bring over a college coach like UConn’s Kevin Ollie or Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, but after winning the draft lottery they could go with a more proven coach. There’s certainly quality options out there, like George Karl, Mark Jackson, Lionel Hollins and Jeff Van Gundy. With a promising young core, the No. 1 overall pick and plenty of financial flexibility, the Cavaliers’ coaching vacancy is almost as attractive as it was when they had a young LeBron James. In their dream scenario, James would re-sign with the team this offseason. Kentucky’s John Calipari has admitted to wanting to coach James and there is a mutual respect between the two, but it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to pluck Calipari from UK or that his hiring would actually bring James back. Another name being thrown around in hopes to appease James is Miami HEAT assistant David Fizdale, who has developed a good relationship with James over the last four years. Former Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and current Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry have ties to Cavaliers general manager David Griffin and could also get a look.
  • When the Jazz decided not to bring back Ty Corbin a lot of names surfaced as potential candidates, including Euroleague star Ettoire Messina, veteran assistant coach Quinn Snyder and San Antonio Spurs assistant Jim Boylen. Former Jazz star John Stockton was also mentioned as a potential candidate. Their names haven’t come up since, though. The first two to get interviews with the Jazz have been Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin and Gentry, who is starting to become somewhat of a hot commodity. The Sacramento Kings have also contacted him about their assistant coaching vacancy. Like the Lakers, the Jazz have vowed that their search will be expansive and thorough. They have a talented young core, but they’re several years removed from trading Deron Williams now and the pressure is starting to build to get back into the playoff picture.
  • No offense to the four openings above, but the most interesting search is quickly becoming Minnesota’s. Seemingly out of nowhere they were granted permission to talk to Memphis’ Dave Joerger. Memphis is currently undergoing a massive overhaul in the front office and a byproduct of that is ownership wanting Joerger gone and Joerger wanting out just as bad. However, neither is willing to break the contract in order to do so. The Timberwolves can make things a lot easier by hiring him and Joerger is reportedly meeting with the team’s owner Glen Taylor this weekend as the second step of the interview process. The Grizzlies would require compensation, if not for anything more than to not set a precedent that they’re willing to let a coach walk away from a contract for nothing, but it likely won’t be anything more than a highly protected second round pick that may never end up being conveyed. The Timberwolves have an unhappy superstar on their hands, so while Joerger may be eager to leave Memphis, he’s not exactly walking into an ideal situation in Minnesota. If the Timberwolves do hire Joerger, the Grizzlies are rumored to be interested in a veteran head coach to replace him. Hollins name has been thrown around. As unlikely as that sounds, crazier reunions have happened in the NBA. If that doesn’t happen, expect to hear Karl, Jackson and Van Gundy’s name thrown around. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is under a lot of heat right now and the only way for him to come out of this overhaul looking good is by upgrading across the board.


Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.


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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with athe season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

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NBA Daily: Calderón’s Late NBA Start

Jose Calderón might be the only player in the league who didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA.

Joel Brigham



There are a lot of different ways to get to the NBA, but most of them involve lifelong scouting and an unceasing dream to play in the world’s premier basketball league.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard José Calderón didn’t really have either of those things.

“I never even thought of the NBA when I was a kid,” Calderón told Basketball Insiders. “I grew up in a small town in Spain, and I played basketball because my dad played and I loved it. I was having fun, always playing with the older guys because I was good at that age, but I never really even thought about playing any sort of professional basketball.”

Having grown up in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, Calderón watched his father play for Doncel La Serena, which was his hometown team as a child. He was something of a prodigy, having attended practices and games with his father from a young age, and as burgeoning teenager he left home to play professionally for the lower-level Vitoria-Gasteiz team.

“They wanted to sign me at 13 years old, and we didn’t even know that they could sign people that young,” Calderón remembers. “So I did that, and I tried to get better. I tried to advance into the older clubs, but I never really did think about the NBA at all, honestly.”

That changed as he got older, though, especially after Spain finished 5th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and Calderón started to get some stateside recognition.

“After that summer, [my agent and I] got a call from Milwaukee asking about my situation, and asked would I think about coming to play over here. It was sort of a let’s-see-what-happens sort of situation, but I couldn’t at that time because I was under contract. That was the first time I was really approached.”

As his teammates from the Spanish National Team made their way to the NBA, Calderón grew increasingly intrigued.

“Pau Gasol obviously opened a lot of doors for us,” he said. “Raul Lopez came, too. I was just playing basketball, though. I didn’t know anything about scouts. Later, when we started to get the calls from Toronto, I started to realize how possible it really was. That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’”

Despite being eligible for a few drafts in a row, Calderón never did get drafted, which was fine by him. Growing up the way he did, Calderón never had any dreams of his hearing his name called by Commissioner Stern, so playing his way through most of his deal with TAU Vitoria was no big deal for him. He could take or leave the NBA.

“Not getting drafted was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “In my satiation, coming from Europe, I was already playing professionally for a good team and making some good money. That was perfect for me at the time, and I was happy to be a free agent at 23, choosing where I was going to sign instead of going in the second round and having to play for one team.”

He signed with the Raptors in 2005 since they were the most aggressive in recruiting him to the NBA. As a 23-year-old rookie, he wasn’t overwhelmed physically the way a lot of rookies are, but he did find his new league challenging in other ways.

“The hardest part was just having to start over,” he said. “You start over from zero. It doesn’t matter if the other players know you or don’t, you have to prove yourself all over again. You could be the MVP of Europe, but to get respect in the NBA you have to gain it on the court.”

The talent differential was immediately noticeable, as well.

“There are so many guys out there that are better than you. It’s not just like a guy or two; there are six, seven guys on the floor any given time that are better than you.”

That meant making some changes in the way that Calderón played. He was asked to do a lot more offensively for his EuroLeague team. Playing with so many talented scorers completely changed his approach.

“I went from taking 20 shots a game to doing something else, and as a point guard in the NBA I had to approach that point guard role even more, to make those guys respect my game, to make them want to play with me. I had to be able to pass the ball, to do something different from all the other players, so I became a fast-first point guard to make sure we always played as a team. That’s how I get to where I am as a professional.”

Now 36 years old, Calderón is one of the league’s oldest players, making it easy for him to look back at where he came from to transform into the player he is today.

“I’ve grown so much, but I was lucky to be given the opportunity,” he said. “When you arrive from Europe, whether you’re good or bad, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t have the opportunity. Toronto gave me the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night, and that’s a lot. I made a lot of mistakes, but they let me play through those mistakes. All those little things added up for me, and I learned a lot.”

He owns two silver medals and a bronze in the three Olympics he’s participated in over the course of his career, as well as gold medals in FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket, but he’s never won an NBA championship. Joining up with LeBron James improves those odds, but that’s the thing that would really put an exclamation point on an excellent career.

Calderón could have stayed in Spain and been fine. He jokes that while the NBA has been very good to him, he and his family could have stayed in Europe and he could have made good money playing basketball there. He’s been happy with his career, though, however unorthodox his journey here, and he hopes his most prestigious accolades are yet to come.

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