New Mexico’s Alex Kirk is training for the 2014 NBA Draft. Basketball Insiders caught up with him to discuss the pre-draft process and film some of his workouts.
Where Will Steve Kerr Land?
One of the hottest names on the coaching market right now is Steve Kerr, despite the fact that he has never coached an NBA game. However, Kerr is respected around the league and he does have experience running an NBA team, as he was the Phoenix Suns’ general manager from 2007 to 2010.
For awhile, it seemed inevitable that Kerr would become the next head coach of the New York Knicks due to his strong relationship with Knicks president Phil Jackson. Jackson coached Kerr when the two were with the Chicago Bulls, and they have remained close over the years. Kerr is also familiar with the triangle offense and many of the assistant coaches in Jackson’s circle, so he seemed perfect for the job. Kerr has met with Jackson, and Phil even reportedly told Carmelo Anthony that he would be hiring his former player when they met for dinner one week ago.
However, in recent days, a number of other teams have reached out to Kerr including the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz. Kerr is now weighing his options and contract talks with New York, which were supposed to get underway on Monday, have stalled as he considers all of these openings.
According to several reports, Kerr’s preference is still to join the Knicks, but talking to the other teams is smart. It’s never a bad idea to start a bidding war for your services and, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports pointed out, Kerr has leverage since Jackson doesn’t seem to have a Plan B in New York.
With that said, it sounds like Kerr will likely choose New York because of his relationship with Jackson. Mike Tanenbaum, Kerr’s agent, recently spoke to SNY’s Chris Carlin about his client’s decision.
“Obviously, he has a great affinity for the Knicks’ organization, for Phil Jackson, but no decision has been reached yet,” Tanenbaum said. “[Playing for a team out west] would be a consideration and we’ll see how the process unfolds. But I think his relationship with Phil is a pretty special one, and I know it’s an important one to him. With that said, he’s going to talk to his family as well and get their feelings.”
Tanenbaum pointed out that Kerr’s busy schedule broadcasting games for TNT has made this process difficult, as he has been traveling quite a bit in recent weeks.
“One of the factors that a lot of people don’t realize is that he’s been on the road a lot,” Tanenbaum said. “I want to say for almost 18 straight days he has been on the road with broadcast responsibilities now that the NBA playoffs are in full gear so it’s not the best circumstances to make a decision, but he’s certainly mulling it over.”
The Warriors could be attractive to Kerr since they have the best roster of all the current openings, and because Kerr has strong ties to California. He attended high school in Los Angeles and still has a lot of family in the state. Kerr also has a relationship with Joe Lacob, Golden State’s owner. Lacob recently told reporters that Kerr could emerge as a candidate for the job.
“I’ve known him for 20 years,’’ Lacob said. “I think very highly of him as an individual — a great human being as well as a great basketball mind, I believe, and a great pedigree. Having said that, we haven’t spoken with him yet. We haven’t interviewed anybody and we’re going to take our time and we’re going to interview people. He might be one of them.’’
Even though the Golden State opening is attractive, sources close to the situation told SNY that Kerr will likely join the Knicks.
“I think Kerr’s going to New York,” the source told SNY. “I think he’s too far down the road. That’s a long shot that he ever comes [to the Warriors]. I think he’s in New York and that’s a done deal.”
Former NBA head coach and fellow broadcaster Doug Collins was recently asked about Kerr’s decision, and he also believes Kerr is New York bound due to his relationship with Jackson.
“It’s different for every person,” Collins told SI.com. “What might attract Steve Kerr to New York might not attract me. The attraction for Steve Kerr to New York is the ability to be with Phil Jackson. Steve said the other day that if Phil weren’t there, they would have no interest in [him]. And [he] would probably have no interest in them. So every job is different based upon the dynamics of the ownership, how you would fit into that, what kind of team they have, what’s the short-term look of the team, what’s the long-term look of the team, what’s the cap situation. There are so many things that go into that. Steve’s looking at New York as a place where maybe in the first year [they] can win X number of games, but you can keep Carmelo, you get guys off the cap next year, you’ve got Phil Jackson, you’ve got New York City, you can recruit and you can be off and running.”
Kerr is expected to make a decision in the next few days, according to reports.
Will Stan Van Gundy Coach Next Year?
With so many NBA teams currently searching for a new head coach, Stan Van Gundy’s name has come up quite a bit in recent weeks. He has been mentioned as a candidate for a number of jobs, including the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons vacancies among others.
Van Gundy spent this year working as a color commentator, calling college basketball and NBA games. He has also worked as an analyst, breaking down the league on television and co-hosting radio shows. Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the NBA since being fired by the Orlando Magic in May of 2012, but he is respected around the league and viewed as one of the top coaches currently on the market.
During his stints with the Magic and the Miami HEAT, Van Gundy’s teams went 371-208 (.641) in the regular season and 48-39 (.552) in the postseason. He made the playoffs in seven of his eight years on the sideline, and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in the 2008-09 season.
Several months ago, Van Gundy told Basketball Insiders that he might not coach during the 2014-15 season since he has two children in high school and he doesn’t want to uproot his family. He may wait until his kids finish school before he decides to move from Central Florida and get back into coaching.
However, if the right situation presents itself, Van Gundy may change his mind and return to the sideline sooner than later. He acknowledged that this is a possibility in an interview on 740 AM’s “Open Mike” show today. While he stressed that part of him is happy to be away from coaching, he did admit that part of him misses his old job.
“Part of me does, and part of me doesn’t,” Van Gundy said. “Look, we’re so happy in Central Florida. It would really have to be a great situation for me to get back in. I miss a lot of it. I really do. I miss the competition. I miss the challenge. I miss the camaraderie of it. But I also like the time that I’ve had, so we’ll just have to see what happens. You weigh every situation.”
Van Gundy has yet to interview with any teams, but he has received a number of phone calls from teams with an opening. The Warriors reportedly called Van Gundy on Wednesday to express interest, but no interview has been scheduled as of yet.
“I have not met with [the Warriors] or anything else,” Van Gundy said. “There have been calls to gauge interest, and until you get a chance to actually talk to somebody, it’s even hard to say if they’re interested or if I would be [interested]. So we’re not at that point of even sitting down and talking yet.”
While Van Gundy has been linked to a lot of jobs, the Golden State buzz has been particularly strong. Van Gundy believes it’s because he was grew up in the Bay Area and was a big Warriors fan.
“Names come up on every job, and my name’s been mentioned in a few,” Van Gundy said. “But I think the Warrior one comes up because I’m from out there. I went to high school in the Bay Area. I grew up out there. I said several times during my coaching career when we would go play out there that it was always important to me playing out there because I grew up [there].
“That arena is old, so it was the same arena, and when I was a sophomore in high school, the Warriors won the NBA championship in 1975 led by Rick Barry. Al Attles was their coach. I was a huge fan, and everybody knows that, and so I think that’s why my name comes up when it’s associated with that job in particular.”
The Warriors fired Mark Jackson on Tuesday, despite the fact that he led the team to the postseason in consecutive years and won 51 games in the 2013-14 season. However, there was a lot of drama behind the scenes. Jackson butted heads with management and ownership, and he had issues managing his coaching staff.
Van Gundy seems like he would be a perfect replacement for Jackson, since he has led a team to the Finals and ran an offense that emphasized the three-point shot in Orlando. Van Gundy is also excellent at adjusting his system to fit the personnel he has on the roster, as evidenced by the fact that his Orlando team and his Miami team had very different styles. Van Gundy is great at getting a lot of out of his players, and it’d be exciting to see what he could do with Golden State’s core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. The organization has championship aspirations and they want to make a hire that can help them become an elite team in the Western Conference. Van Gundy could be their best option.
Other veteran head coaches who have been mentioned as candidates for these openings are George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, Mike Woodson, Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry. NCAA head coaches Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State) and Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) have also been mentioned quite a bit.
NBA Saturday: Kuzma Is The Main Attraction In Los Angeles
Kyle Kuzma, not Lonzo Ball, is the rookie in L.A. that is turning heads around the NBA.
Out in Los Angeles, there is a dynamite rookie first-round pick lighting it up for the Lakers, invoking memories of the days when the purple and gold had homegrown stars.
That’s Kyle Kuzma. He was the 27th pick in the NBA Draft. Twenty-five picks after Lonzo Ball, the rookie that first sentence would have presumably been about had it been written three months ago.
Ball’s early season struggles are well-noted. He’s missing shots at an all-time bad clip for a rookie, his psyche seems a bit rattled, and he isn’t having the impact most Lakers fans would have hoped he would from the jump.
All of that has barely mattered, though, in large part to the show Kuzma has been putting on just 16 games into the 2017-18 season. In Friday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, the most by an NBA freshman so far this year. That performance was Kuzma’s sixth 20-point game of the young season, another rookie best. And to top it all off, Kuzma was the first rookie to reach the 30-point, 10-rebound plateau since none other than Magic Johnson, back in February of 1980.
Kuzma’s path to the NBA was much different than Johnson’s, though, along with his rookie counterpart Ball. Those two prospects were highly-touted “superstar potential” guys coming out of the college ranks. Kuzma? Well, he was a 21-year-old junior out of Utah who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his last year and was a career 30 percent three-point shooter as an amateur.
The knocks on Kuzma began to change during the NBA Draft process and came to a head for the Lakers when long-time scout Bill Bertka raved about his potential.
“He got all wide-eyed,” Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “And he said, ‘If this guy isn’t an NBA player, then I don’t know what the f— I’m looking at.'”
The Lakers took a chance on the 6-foot-9 forward who had a rare combination of a sweet shooting stroke to accompany his low-post moves that seemed to be reminiscent of players 20 years his senior.
Fast forward from draft night to the Las Vegas Summer League, and everyone could see with their own two eyes the type of player Los Angeles drafted. The numbers were startling: 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 48 percent from beyond the arc out in Sin City for Kuzma, all capped off by a Summer League championship game MVP.
Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but what Kuzma did in July was proved he belonged.
Through the first month of Kuzma’s rookie campaign, when the games are actually counting for something, all he’s continued to do is prove that his exhibition numbers in Vegas were no fluke.
After his 30-point outburst, Kuzma now leads all rookies in total points scored (yet still second in scoring average), is fourth in rebounds per game, third in minutes, and third in field goal percentage.
By all accounts, Kuzma is outperforming just about every highly-touted prospect that was taken before him last June, and sans a Ben Simmons broken foot in September of 2016, he would be in line for the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.
Following Wednesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brett Brown had more than a few nice things to say about Kuzma.
“He’s a hell of a rookie,” Brown told NBC Philly’s Jessica Camerato. “That was a great pick by them.”
Brown went on to commend Kuzma for being “excellent” Wednesday night, when prior to his game Friday against the Suns, Kuzma set a career-high by scoring 24 points.
For all of the praise and the scoring numbers Kuzma is bringing to the Staples Center, his Lakers team sits at just 6-10 on the season, and has been on the wrong end of a number of close games so far this year.
While that’s good for second in the Pacific division right now, behind only the Golden State Warriors, it isn’t likely that type of success (or lack thereof) will get the Lakers to the playoffs. So, despite all of the numbers and attention, Kuzma isn’t fulfilling his rookie year the way he had hoped.
“It is cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma told Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. “I like to win, stats don’t really matter to me. I just try to play hard and I want to win.”
Few projected the type of impact Kuzma would have this early on in his career, and even fewer would have assumed he’d be outperforming the Lakers’ prized draft pick in Ball. But surprising people with his game is nothing new to Kuzma.
From Flint, Michigan, to Utah, to Los Angeles, Kuzma has been turning heads of those that overlooked him the entire time.
With one month in the books as the Los Angeles Lakers’ most promising rookie, Kuzma has all the attention he could’ve asked for now.
Kelly Olynyk Strengthens the HEAT Bench
David Yapkowitz speaks to Kelly Olynyk about his early showing in Miami.
The past few years, Kelly Olynyk carved out a nice role for himself as an important player off the Boston Celtics bench. He was a fan favorite at TD Garden, with his most memorable moment in Celtic green coming in last season’s playoffs against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
With Boston pushed to the limit and finding themselves forced into a Game 7, Olynyk rose to the occasion and dropped a playoff career-high 26 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting from the field in a Celtics win. He scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter to hold Washington off.
He was a free agent at the end of the season, and instead of coming back to the Celtics, he became a casualty of their roster turnover following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign in Boston. Once he hit the open market he had no shortage of suitors, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Miami HEAT, an easy decision for him.
“It’s awesome, they got a real good culture here,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “The organization is great, the city is great, the staff from the top down they do a good job here.”
Olynyk was initially the HEAT’s starting power forward to begin the season. In their opening night game, a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he scored ten points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists.
The very next game, however, he found himself back in his familiar role as first big man off the bench. In that game, a win over the Indiana Pacers, Olynyk had an even stronger game with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Throughout the first eight games of the season, Olynyk was thriving with his new team. During that stretch, he was averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a career-high 55 percent shooting from the field and 60. 8 percent from downtown.
“I’m just playing, I’m just playing basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “They’re kind of letting me just play. They kind of let us all just play. They put us in positions to succeed and just go out there and let out skills show.”
For a HEAT team that may not be as talented on paper as some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they definitely play hard and gritty and are a sum of their parts. Night in and night out, in each of their wins, they’ve done it off the contributions from each player in the rotation and Olynyk has been a big part of that. Through Nov. 16, the HEAT bench was seventh in the league in points per game with 36.6.
In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, Olynyk was part of a bench unit including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Wayne Ellington that came into the game late in the first quarter. The score at that point was 18-14 in Miami’s favor. That unit closed the quarter on a 16-6 run to put the HEAT up double digits. After that game, head coach Erik Spoelstra recognized the strength of the HEAT bench.
“Our guys are very resilient, that’s the one thing you’ve got to give everybody in that locker room, they’re tough,” Spoelstra said. “This is all about everybody in that locker room contributing to put yourself in a position, the best chance to win. It’s not about first unit, second unit, third unit, we’re all in this together.”
In Boston, Olynyk was part of a similar group that won games off of team play and production from every guy that got in the game. They were also a tough, gritty team and Olynyk has recognized that same sort of fire in the HEAT locker room.
“It’s a group of hard-nosed guys that can really grind it out and play tough-nosed basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “We can go a lot of places. We just got to stick together and keep doing what we do. We can compete with anybody and we just got to bring it every single night.”
At 7-8, the HEAT currently sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Olynyk has seen a bit of a decrease in playing time, and likewise in production. He’s right at his career average in points per game with 9.5, but he’s still shooting career-highs from the field (54 percent) and from three-point range (47.4).
It’s still very early, though, and only one game separates the 11th place HEAT from the 8th place Magic. The HEAT are definitely tough enough to fight for a playoff spot, especially with Olynyk around helping to strengthen their bench.
Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17
Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.
We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.
A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.
Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.
While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.
6) Joel Embiid
Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.
One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.
5) Kristaps Porzingis
Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.
So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.
4) Nikola Jokic
At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.
Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.
3) Draymond Green
In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.
Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.
2) Al Horford
The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.
He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.
1) DeMarcus Cousins
Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.
Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.
The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.