NBA

NBA PM: Van Gundy Nearing Deal With Pistons?

Stan Van Gundy is negotiating a deal with the Detroit Pistons to become the head coach and president of basketball operations … Phoenix Suns and Bakersfield Jam enter single-affiliation relationship … Up close with Alex Kirk

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Updated 12 months ago on
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At a press conference on Tuesday, David Griffin was introduced as the new general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He discussed the firing of head coach Mike Brown after just one season.

Van Gundy Nearing Deal With Pistons?

It seemed like Stan Van Gundy and the Golden State Warriors were a match made in heaven. Golden State has a talented roster and championship aspirations while Van Gundy grew up a Warriors fan and has Bay Area roots. It made a lot of sense for both parties.

However, it turns out Van Gundy has his eyes on another job. The Detroit Pistons are not only offering Van Gundy the opportunity to coach, they’re also prepared to give him complete control over the team’s basketball operations. He will call the shots and build the organization how he sees fit. The two sides are currently negotiating a five-year, $35 million deal that would make Van Gundy the team’s head coach and president of basketball operations, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Van Gundy reportedly asked Golden State for a similar arrangement, but they declined. Now, it seems that Van Gundy is leaning toward the Detroit job and the Warriors are making another run at Steve Kerr. If Van Gundy takes the job with the Pistons, it will be similar to the role that Doc Rivers assumed with the Los Angeles Clippers when he was hired last summer. Rivers also inked a deal to receive $7 million per season, but he only signed a three-year contract.

The Pistons have a lot of faith in Van Gundy and believe he can help them return to relevance in the Eastern Conference. During the 2013-14 season, Detroit went 29-53, missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Head coach Maurice Cheeks was fired in February and general manager Joe Dumars resigned in April.

Van Gundy is respected around the league and is considered one of the top head coaches currently on the market. During his stints with the Orlando 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, at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Van Gundy told Basketball Insiders that it would take the perfect situation for him to return to coaching. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to uproot his family, especially since two of his kids are currently in high school in Central Florida. With the opportunity to assume control of the Pistons from top to bottom, it seems that this would qualify as the right situation.

Van Gundy has 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 Magic in May of 2012.

It would be interesting to see what Van Gundy would do with Detroit’s roster. Andre Drummond, 20, seems to be the face of the franchise, as he has the potential to become one of the top centers in the NBA. Greg Monroe, 23, is another key piece, who will enter restricted free agency this summer once the Pistons extend a $5,479,935 qualifying offer. Dumars signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to multi-year deals last offseason, and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the first round.

The Pistons have just $33,413,230 in guaranteed commitments for next season, and they have a lottery pick that is currently projected to be the eighth overall pick.

Wojnarowski reports that if Van Gundy accepts the Detroit job, “he’ll look closely at hiring former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith.” Van Gundy and Smith were very close during their stint with the Magic, and “Van Gundy never forgot how Smith stood by him until the end there.”

This is somewhat of a surprise given Smith’s track record, but it makes sense given their relationship. Smith was criticized for some of his moves with the Magic, including trading for Gilbert Arenas, drafting players like Fran Vazquez (who stayed overseas) and Daniel Orton without ever meeting with them or working them out and overpaying free agents such as Rashard Lewis, Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson among others. With that said, Smith did make a number of successful moves in Orlando such as pushing the organization to draft Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, and trading for Vince Carter among others.

Van Gundy is expected to make a final decision this week, but it seems that the two sides are nearing a deal since they’re already discussing the specifics of his contract. According to Wojnarowski, Pistons owner Tom Gores is willing to do “whatever it takes” to land Van Gundy.

Suns, Jam Enter Single-Affiliation Relationship

The Phoenix Suns, Bakersfield Jam and NBA Development League today announced that the Suns have entered into a single-affiliation relationship with the Jam beginning with the 2014-15 season.  With the partnership, the Suns become the record 15th NBA franchise to have a one-to-one relationship with an NBA D-League team, solidifying half of the NBA’s 30 teams as singly-affiliated.

Through this relationship, also known as a “hybrid” partnership, the Suns will oversee and fund all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations while the local ownership in Bakersfield, led by Stan Ellis and David Higdon, will continue to manage the team’s business operations and community outreach.

“This investment by the Suns not only demonstrates how important an exclusive NBA D-League affiliation has become to an NBA team, but is also a strong endorsement of the excellent organization and resources Stan Ellis and David Higdon have put in place in Bakersfield,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “This partnership also commemorates a very important milestone for the NBA D-League, as half of all NBA teams are now investing in an exclusive ‘one-to-one’ affiliation with an NBA D-League team.”

Phoenix has named Bubba Burrage, the Suns’ head pro personnel scout for the past three seasons, as the general manager in Bakersfield.  Burrage brings 21 years of experience in the NBA, holding scouting, coaching, video and front office positions.  Burrage will continue scouting in addition to serving as general manager of the Jam.

The Suns have also hired long-time NBA D-League coach Nate Bjorkgren to helm Bakersfield for the 2014-15 campaign.  Bjorkgren joins the Jam having amassed a 92-58 record as a head coach for the Dakota Wizards, Santa Cruz Warriors and Iowa Energy.  Bjorkgren led the 2013-14 Energy to the Central Division Championship and the 2012-13 Warriors to the NBA D-League Finals.

“We are pleased to be working with Stan Ellis, David Higdon and the group in Bakersfield in our new single-affiliation relationship,” said Suns president of basketball pperations Lon Babby. “We have worked well as part of a multi-affiliation with the Jam since 2011 and have the utmost confidence in their organization. The hybrid model enables us to manage all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations. This provides an important opportunity for us to enhance the development of our young players. For example, by implementing the Suns’ style and system of play in Bakersfield, we can make the NBA D-League experience seamless for our players. Bubba and Nate will help make this another important step in our focus on player development.”

The Suns have been affiliated with the Jam since 2011, sharing the affiliation with the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz last season.  During the teams’ three-year affiliation, the Suns assigned first round NBA Draft picks Archie Goodwin and Kendall Marshall, as well as Diante Garrett, to develop their games with the Jam.  Additionally, the Jam has developed eight players who earned GATORADE Call-Ups during the team’s eight-year history.

“Stan and I are excited to begin this exclusive partnership with the Phoenix Suns,” said Higdon, Managing Partner of the Jam.  “As we have worked together the past few seasons we have come to appreciate the tireless dedication the Suns place on building a winning culture.  We share that vision in Bakersfield and look forward to contributing to their continued success.”

During the 2013-14 campaign, the NBA D-League’s 13th and most successful season, 33 percent of all NBA players at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, including seven Suns, boasted NBA D-League experience.  A record 62 NBA players were assigned a record 187 times to hone their skills in the NBA D-League, while an additional 36 players earned 49 GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA.

The Suns become the seventh NBA team to enter inter a hybrid affiliation with an NBA D-League team for the 2014-15 season, joining the Boston Celtics (Maine Red Claws), Detroit Pistons (Grand Rapids NBA D-League Team), Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), Memphis Grizzlies (Iowa Energy), Miami Heat (Sioux Falls Skyforce) and Sacramento Kings (Reno Bighorns).

Seven additional NBA teams will own and operate their NBA D-League affiliates for the 2014-15 season: Cleveland Cavaliers (Canton Charge), Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors), Los Angeles Lakers (L.A. D-Fenders), New York Knicks (Westchester NBA D-League Team), Oklahoma City Thunder (Tulsa 66ers), Philadelphia 76ers (Delaware 87ers) and San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros).  Additionally, the Dallas Mavericks have a single affiliation with the Texas Legends by way of Mavericks’ general manager Donnie Nelson’s ownership of the Legends.

Up Close With Alex Kirk

Former New Mexico big man Alex Kirk is training for the 2014 NBA Draft at IMG Academy in Florida. Basketball Insiders caught up with Kirk to discuss the pre-draft process and get a look at his workouts. Check out the video:



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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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