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NBA PM: Magic Begin Search for New Head Coach

With Jacque Vaughn gone, Orlando is looking for a new coach. Here’s the latest on their search.

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Magic Begin Search for New Head Coach

The Orlando Magic officially fired head coach Jacque Vaughn today, after the team had lost 10 straight games and 16 of their last 18 contests. During a press conference announcing the decision, Magic general manager Rob Hennigan made it clear that the team hadn’t been competing at an acceptable level lately and that they’re hoping this change can make them more consistent moving forward.

James Borrego is the assistant who has been tapped as the Magic’s interim head coach, but it’s possible that Orlando will try to bring in a full-time head coach midseason. The All-Star break, which is next weekend and longer this year, would seemingly be the perfect time to make such a change.

It’s sometimes tough to bring in a head coach midseason since it’s difficult to build a staff (as most assistants are already hired) and some coaches prefer to take over in the summer when they can put the team through training camp and implement their system from day one. However, some league sources said that the Magic are viewed as an attractive situation given their youth and talent, and that some coaches may want to land there now so they can see what they have on the roster before the offseason.

The Magic want an experienced, proven head coach who will help them win right away and immediately have the respect of the players, according to sources.

Sources confirm that Scott Skiles, Mark Jackson and Mike Malone are three coaches who are on the Magic’s radar. Hennigan hasn’t started reaching out to coaches or their representatives yet, but they are expected to begin that process today.

Skiles may be the frontrunner, which wouldn’t be a surprise since he has been linked to the job for awhile. He and Magic assistant general manager Matt Lloyd worked together on the Chicago Bulls, and Lloyd has quite a bit of influence in Orlando. Some of Skiles’ assistant coaches that worked with him during his latest stint with the Milwaukee Bucks have been coaching the Magic’s D-League affiliate in Erie this season. Skiles has 13 years of coaching experience and has gone 443-433 in the regular season and 18-24 in the postseason.

Jackson is expected to receive consideration as well. He most recently coached the Golden State Warriors, but was let go after three seasons. During his final two seasons, he led the Warriors to 47 and 51 wins as well as consecutive playoff berths. He was successful and had strong relationships with his players, but he butted heads with the management. Jackson is 121-109 in the regular season and 9-10 in the playoffs.

Malone was fired this season by the Sacramento Kings, but he’s a respected coach who had his team playing above league-wide expectations when he was let go. He has the least experience of the three candidates, with just 106 games under his belt (in which he went 39-67), but he is a possibility.

One name to watch is George Karl. Sources didn’t mention him as a target for the Magic initially, but I’m told that Karl would have interest in coaching Orlando and possibly joining the team midseason. In 2005, he took over the Denver Nuggets midseason and they went 32-8 after he got the job (which is the best record for a coach who has taken over a job midseason).

Karl had previously said he’d prefer a job out West, but sources say he would be interested in the Magic since they’re an attractive team with their youth and talent. Karl is also extremely experienced, with 25 years of head coaching experience and an NBA Finals appearance on his resume. He is 1131-756 in the regular season and 80-105 in the postseason.

When asked about the coaching search today, Hennigan refused to provide details.

“We’re going to take it day by day; James Borrego is our coach,” Hennigan said. “We’re supporting JB. Our players are supporting JB… I’m not going to get into specifics about anything relative to a coaching situation other than the fact that JB is our coach.”

The Magic are currently 15-37, which is the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. One reason why the Magic may want to hire a coach this season is because the East remains wide open at the bottom and they are only seven and a half games back from the eighth seed.

They entered this season hoping to make the playoffs since their young players had some experience under their belt and veterans like Channing Frye, Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour were signed over the summer as well. Under Vaughn, the team failed to live up to these expectations and many felt that he was in over his head.

“I would like to thank Mr. DeVos and family for the opportunity of representing the Orlando Magic as head coach,” Vaughn said in a statement. “I am a stronger and wiser man and coach because of the opportunity. I look forward to seeing this group continue to grow. God bless, good luck.”

Jackson Continues to Work With ‘Melo

This season has been a huge disappointment for the New York Knicks, as they currently sit at 10-39 (the second-worst record in the NBA). Still, Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony are hoping they can turn things around rather quickly, since the team will now have a top pick in this year’s draft as well as plenty of money to lure players in free agency.

During the team’s recent trip to London, Jackson and Anthony met over dinner to discuss the state of the team as well as how ‘Melo could play well into his 30s and get better over time like Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan have done.

Anthony was asked about their dinner and he said it was a very positive experience.

“We did have a conversation,’’ Anthony said, according to the New York Post. “I thought we had a great conversation. As far as the specifics, I don’t go there. There were some things said on his behalf I really took heed to. It gave me some more confidence as a player to be able to look forward to what we’re trying to create here.

“From that standpoint, it was a great conversation. As far as the player I can become, I know I have some ways to go to become that player. We’re working towards that with Phil. It takes a collective effort.’’

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Jazz offering Mike Conley $75 million over next three years

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According to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein, the Utah Jazz are preparing to offer point guard Mike Conley a three-year, $75 million contract to remain with the team. Of course, the exact amount is a ballpark figure. Stein stated, “Utah has made retaining Mike Conley its top priority, league sources say, and is preparing a three-year offer said to be in the $75 million range.” The 14-year NBA veteran is a significant piece to the Jazz’s championship window, playing alongside superstar teammates, such as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell. He helped the Jazz finish their regular season with the league’s best record of 52-20 (.722).

Utah went on to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Though, the team lost four games to two in the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Conley averaged 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and six assists per game in 51 games started. Then, in the postseason, he averaged 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. The 33-year-old also shot 44.4 percent from the field in the regular season. Last season, the 2007 fourth overall pick earned his first NBA All-Star selection.

On July 6, 2019, the Grizzlies traded Conley to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick. Furthermore, the Jazz can still trade Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles this offseason, if they wanted to improve their current salary cap situation. Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 cap holds, Mike Conley’s cap figure is $39,344,900. Cap holds are for pending free agents. Conley earned $34,504,132 last season.

The team’s current luxury tax space is $11,173,027. In addition to the aforementioned cap figures, Mitchell and Gobert have a combined cap figure worth 51.34 percent of the team’s total salary cap. These two players’ contracts alone are consuming a huge chunk of the team’s cap. Plus, on November 23, 2020, Mitchell signed a contract extension with Utah. He is set to earn $28,103,550 next season. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. He will earn $35,344,828 next season and $38,172,414 in the 2022-23 season.

However, if the team were to still trade Bogdanovic and possibly Ingles as well, this would clear up an additional 25.68 percent of the team’s salary cap. Bogdanovic’s future guaranteed cash amount total is $19,343,000. They are contributing role players who play together well with the team’s big three, but re-signing the most valuable players is the team’s main objective this offseason. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik might contemplate trading role players who are not worth their asking price. Competitive teams in both conferences have to trim the fat at some point.

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Jazz agree to trade Derrick Favors, first-round pick to Thunder

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First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Utah Jazz are trading power forward/center Derrick Favors and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future second-round pick. The goal here was to help reduce their tax bill. While the six-foot-eight Georgia native does not possess any notable NBA awards or honors on his basketball résumé, in the 2020-21 NBA season, Favors averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent. The 11-year NBA veteran also recorded a free throw shooting percentage of 73.8 percent last season.

The 2020-21 Thunder finished 27-50 (.306), ranking 14th overall in the Western Conference. They could use another first-round pick. Plus, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this trade will put Utah $13 million below the luxury tax. On November 24, 2020, Favors signed a three-year, $29.2 million contract with the Jazz. Favors is set to earn $9,720,900 next season. This is the second time in his career he has left the Jazz.

He played with them from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season, before he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 7, 2019 for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. For the 2022-23 season, he has a player option of $10,183,800. The Jazz plan to also re-sign Mike Conley, so this was somewhat of a drastic move to help clear up cap space. On July 6, 2019, Conley was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Jazz, in exchange for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Moreover, scoring-wise, the 33-year-old point guard has not lived up to his performances from his last few seasons on the Grizzlies, but the Jazz need all the help they can get. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik will make it a top priority to re-sign Conley here soon. Conley earned $34,504,132 in the 2020-21 season.

According to Spotrac, Conley has a cap figure of $39,344,900. Center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell have a combined percentage of 47.61 percent of Utah’s total salary cap. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the team. He will earn $35,344,828 next season.

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Wizards, Lakers agree to Russell Westbrook and Three-Player Trade Deal

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The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in a three-player trade, sending Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick in Thursday’s 2021 NBA Draft to the Wizards. According to ESPN, the Wizards are also giving up their 2024 and 2028 second-round picks as well. During last night’s draft, at pick No. 22, the Lakers sent Wildcats’ center Isaiah Jackson to the Pacers via the Wizards. At pick No. 15, the Wizards drafted Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert. In the second round, at pick No. 31, the Milwaukee Bucks traded NBA G League player Isaiah Todd to the Wizards via the Pacers.

On Thursday, Harrell decided to pursue his $9.7 million player option for next season. Yesterday, rumors surfaced across social media regarding a possible Lakers-Kings trade involving Harrell. Despite the outlandish predictions and mindless speculation from fans over these last couple of days, this trade move could work out great for both teams. Having said that, one person’s prediction is as good as anyone’s. The Lakers needed an accurate shooter. Westbrook might not be the missing piece.

Additionally, Westbrook is a 9-time NBA All-Star and three-time assists leader. In his MVP season back in the 2016-17 season, over the course of 81 games, he averaged a career-high 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. On Twitter, Westbrook tweeted, “I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 67 games started for the Lakers. The 28-year-old shooting guard will make $13 million next season. As for Kuzma, in 68 games played last season, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Kuzma is set to earn $13 million next season. For Harrell, in 69 games played last season, he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. The six-foot-seven power forward/center is also a six-year player. Instead of having one or two notable super stars, the Wizards having several contributing players might work out better in their favor.

Last season, in 65 games played in his only season spent on the Wizards, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. The 32-year-old point guard finished the 2020-21 season with 38 triple-doubles, ranking first in the league and second highest in his own playing career. Westbrook also surpassed Oscar Robertson last season for the most all-time assists; Robertson accumulated 181 triple-doubles in 14 seasons. Now, the two-time NBA scoring champion has 184 career triple-doubles, the most all-time for any player. Furthermore, this is Westbrook’s fourth team in his NBA career.

He is the fifth former MVP in league history to play on four different teams over the course of four seasons or less, adding to the existent list of Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Derrick Rose. Moreover, on December 2, 2020, Westbrook was traded by the Houston Rockets to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 first-round draft pick. He is set to earn $44.2 million in the upcoming season. His player option for the 2022-23 season is $47 million. This trade deal will not be official until August 6th.

Per Bovada’s NBA Futures odds, the Lakers now have +300 odds of winning their eighteenth championship in the 2021-22 season. This is a move from 4/1 odds before the trade, leaping the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, and they now have the second best odds behind the Brooklyn Nets (+250). Westbrook also has the best odds of leading the league in assists next season, with first place odds showing EVEN. He is ahead of James Harden (+150), Trae Young (+450), and Luka Doncic (+600). With +6600 odds, he also ranks 19th in the NBA for next season’s MVP odds, trailing Lakers’ teammates such as James (+1200) and Davis (+2800).

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