Tag:Hornets
Posted on: July 16, 2010 11:15 pm
 

Hornets' coach to sit down with Paul

LAS VEGAS -- Hornets coach Monty Williams has read the reports indicating that Chris Paul is unhappy in New Orleans. But the Hornets' first-year coach isn't going to believe it until he hears it from his superstar point guard's mouth.

Williams plans to sit down with Paul for a face-to-face meeting in the near future in an effort to clear the air about the point guard's concerns and sell him on his vision.

"I want him to feel as excited as I am about where we’re going," Williams said after watching the Hornets' Summer League team Friday. "We have a bit of a new vision that I think is something that he can be excited about – and not just from an on-the-court standpoint. We’re working to get this thing continuing in the right direction."

Despite the fact that Wiliams has yet to coach a game for the Hornets, he already finds himself as the organization's lone basketball figure in the midst of a chaotic summer. The Hornets fired GM Jeff Bower this week and are in the process of hiring his replacement. Team president High Weber has scheduled interviews with Wizards assistant GM Tommy Sheppard and Kings assistant GM Jason Levien, and already has spoken with Spurs executive Dell Demps. Weber also wants to discuss the opening with former Trail Blazers execs Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn, as well as former Suns exec David Griffin, sources said.

Meanwhile, Paul was quoted earlier this month as saying that he's "open to being traded" if the Hornets aren't committed to winning and competing with the Lakers, Celtics and other top teams.

"All I've seen from him is that he wants to win," Williams said. "All that other stuff, I've never seen him say anything. Every article has been somebody speculating or someone from inside the camp. I don’t have a camp. I've got me and my wife and my kids, so I don’t even know how that works. All I've seen for him is that he wants to win. I hope so, because that’s what we want. That’s not my personality to jump on some rumor or conjecture. The things he tells me straight up, that’s what I believe."

A specific date for Williams' sitdown with his disgruntled point guard has not been set, and Williams doesn't want to intrude on Paul's summer -- which gets more interesting by the day. Last week, it was reported that Paul toasted to forming "our own Big Three" in New York with Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony at Anthony's wedding. Williams spoke with Paul about his vision for the team after he was hired, but that was before Paul's recent comments.

"I tend to let guys do their things in the summer time," Williams said. "I don’t want to get down his back with all my plans and let my excitement get in the way of his summer. I had a chance to spend a week with him two weeks ago and we had a chance to talk about a lot of stuff. He’s on the same page with us and I'm excited about working with him."
Posted on: July 16, 2010 9:56 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2010 10:38 pm
 

Summer League Buzz

LAS VEGAS -- If members of LeBron James' entourage get hired by the Miami Heat, the NBA wouldn't rule out opening an investigation into possible salary-cap circumvention, a high-ranking official familiar with the league's thinking told CBSSports.com Friday.

While league officials are not actively pursuing any tampering charges related to James' decision to sign with the Heat -- and, in fact, have received no complaints that would trigger such a probe -- it wouldn't be surprising to see an investigation related to any jobs given to people in James' circle of advisers. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the league would not need a team to lodge a complaint to launch such an investigation.

In a detailed account of the Heat's nearly two-year effort to recruit James to join Dwyane Wade in Miami, Yahoo! Sports on Friday quoted an NBA front office executive who said he wants the league to examine whether Heat president Pat Riley promised jobs or other benefits to members of James' camp as part of his recruiting pitch.

 “You can’t promise jobs or preferential services outside of a contract or a job for a friend," the team executive told Yahoo! Sports. "If that’s part of the deal, it’s a violation.”

The penalties for such side deals designed to circumvent salary-cap rules are severe. In 2000, the Minnesota Timberwolves were fined $3.5 million and lost three draft picks after disclosure of a written deal with free agent Joe Smith. The arrangement called for Smith to play under three consecutive one-year contracts, after which it was agreed that the team would use his Bird rights to sign him to a multi-year deal to make up for the money he'd left on the table. Owner Glen Taylor and then-GM Kevin McHale agreed to leaves of absence in order to get back two other draft picks that had been taken away as part of the penalty. In addition to forfeiture of draft picks, league rules call for a maximum fine of $5 million, voiding the contract of the player in question, and up to a one-year suspension of any team officials involved.

One impediment to prosecuting such a case against the Heat -- if and when members of James' camp are hired for any jobs -- is that it will be difficult to prove it is any different from what the Cavs did to appease James when he played for them. One member of James' circle of friends, Randy Mims, was employed by the Cavs as a "player liaison." The hiring was never investigated, and the Cavs were never subject to any punishment for the arrangement.

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While the Hawks have ruled out paying luxury tax to sign Shaquille O'Neal -- or any other free agent, for that matter -- the organization hasn't shut the door completely on bringing Shaq to Atlanta, a person familiar with the team's thinking told CBSSports.com. If O'Neal were to lower his asking price from the mid-level exception -- starting at about $5.8 million -- to the bi-annual exception of about $1.9 million, the Hawks would be interested in exploring such a signing. Atlanta would be able to pay O'Neal the bi-annual exception -- or a portion of its mid-level -- and avoid paying luxury tax. But the current ownership group has never paid luxury tax and doesn't plan to begin paying it now. Also, the Hawks haven't discussed -- nor are they interested in -- a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Cavs that would cost them a piece of their young core, sources say.

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The Raptors continue to explore several potential trade scenarios involving point guard Jose Calderon, who was going to be dealt to the Bobcats earlier this week before Charlotte owner Michael Jordan backed out of the deal. Interest from potential trade partners has been lukewarm, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. ... Wizards assistant GM Tommy Sheppard and Kings assistant GM Jason Levien will interview for the Hornets' GM opening, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. Hornets president Hugh Weber already has spoken with Spurs executive Dell Demps and plans to speak with former Trail Blazers execs Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn, as well as former Suns exec David Griffin, sources said. Weber, according to one of the sources, is hoping to have the process wrapped up quickly, perhaps as soon as Sunday. ... Demps has spoken with Suns officials about that team's opening for a personnel man to work under incoming team president Lon Babby, a former player agent.



Posted on: July 16, 2010 12:03 am
Edited on: July 16, 2010 6:47 am
 

Summer League Buzz

LAS VEGAS – After the whirlwind of being the No. 1 pick in the draft, signing his $25 million endorsement contract with Reebok, and doing other things that No. 1 picks have to do, John Wall is back where he’s most comfortable: on the court.

That’s where he was Thursday night, as I was typing this: in a courtside seat with his knees wrapped in ice, texting with abandon and watching former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe play for the Clippers against the Trail Blazers in an NBA Summer League game. Earlier, Wall had 21 points and 10 assists in his third pro game, an 88-82 victory over the Mavericks. Wall is now 3-0 since the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the East Regional Final.

“I was excited to play that first game and get into a rhythm and start winning games for my team,” Wall said Thursday night.

Though he didn’t shoot well (4-for-19), it was arguably Wall’s best game since arriving in Vegas. He’s averaging 21 points and 9.3 assists, but the best number Thursday night was in the turnover column: three, after committing eight in each of his first two games.

“I’m trying to get better at everything,” Wall said.

Wall said he’s spoken “once or twice a week” with his future backcourt mate, Gilbert Arenas, since the draft, and hopes to work out with the Wizards’ former franchise player before training camp. Wall is used to playing with top talent – three of his former Kentucky teammates are making their NBA debuts in Vegas this week – but finding a comfort zone with Arenas will be his most important on-court relationship to date.

The Wizards, so far, couldn’t be happier with how Wall is handling the first days of his NBA career. “No diva factor,” is how one source described him. That’s exactly what the Wizards need after enduring the nightmarish fallout from Arenas’ firearms incident and suspension.
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The Hawks continue to be the most likely landing spot for free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal, but even Atlanta – which could use Shaq’s ability to sell tickets – is balking at his asking price. The Hawks, after retaining free-agent Joe Johnson with a six-year, $124 million contract, may not be able to get ownership to approve offering O’Neal the mid-level exception starting at $5.8 million.

The Celtics and Mavericks have been monitoring the O’Neal situation, although one person with knowledge of the Celtics’ plans said they’re “not very” active in their discussions about turning Shaq into the Big Leprechaun. The Knicks’ reported interest in Shaq is lukewarm at best, sources say. But if O’Neal is willing to lower his price – say, to the bi-annual exception of $1.9 million – his market would expand considerably. One Eastern Conference GM said if the right team gets O’Neal, he could be “the key to the East.” The thinking is this: The only weakness on Miami’s superteam is in the middle, where Shaq could do some damage.
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Hornets officials have begun their search to replace fired GM Jeff Bower, but have not gotten back to several coaching agents involved as to which of their clients will be getting interviews. Former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be good fit, especially considering his relationship with Hornets coach Monty Williams – a former Portland assistant. But a person familiar with the state of the Hornets’ search said several potential candidates haven’t been informed of where they fit on the team’s list of priorities. Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported that Spurs executive Dell Demps interviewed for the job Thursday.

As for Pritchard’s former employer, the Blazers are believed to have zeroed in on Thunder assistant GM Rich Cho, whose strengths in data analysis have wowed the Vulcan Inc. cronies who have owner Paul Allen’s ear. The Vulcanites, as they’re not so fondly called, are wielding plenty of influence in the power vacuum created when Pritchard was fired on draft night, sources say.

The Suns’ search for a day-to-day GM is on hold until former player agent Lon Babby officially is installed as team president. Babby, sources say, will take control of the search, which is believed to be wide open.
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As impressive as Wall was for the Wizards Thursday night, he wasn’t even close to being the fan favorite in the game. That honor went to Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard standout invited to play on the Mavs’ Summer League team. Lin, trying to become the NBA’s first American-born Asian player, showed a real flare for getting to the basket and was impressive with 13 points and a plus-14 in 27 minutes.


Posted on: July 1, 2010 3:16 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 1:25 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)


After meeting for more than two hours with LeBron James in Cleveland Thursday, with a van-full of presentation gear to show for it, the Knicks' contingent headed to Chicago for meetings with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But not before trying to make a last-minute pitch to keep Joe Johnson from signing with the Hawks, a person familiar with the strategy said.

At the precise moment when coach Mike D'Antoni, president Donnie Walsh, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan and others emerged from a Cleveland office tower Thursday, Johnson was hunkered down in a meeting with his agent, Arn Tellem, and Hawks officials in Los Angeles. It was the second sit-down for Johnson and the team he's played with for five seasons, and it wasn't clear what more needed to be discussed regarding Atlanta's six-year, $120 million offer -- which neither the Knicks nor any other suitor can match under NBA salary rules.

But the Knicks, trying to use Johnson as an enticement to lure James to New York, jumped back into the fray with a call to Tellem after meeting with LeBron. The Knicks are "swinging away," the source said, and "need some luck."

While it seems unlikely that Johnson would turn down the Hawks' offer, Johnson was still in play as of late Thursday afternoon, when Tellem told CBSSports.com there was not yet an agreement with Atlanta. A person familiar with the discussions said there would be "no decision" Thursday from Johnson on the Hawks' offer, which is 100 percent guaranteed, according to a source.

The Knicks will meet in Chicago Friday with the other two top free agents, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

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Another Tellem client in demand is small forward Mike Miller, a 10-year veteran who shot 50 percent from the field for Washington last season. The Knicks met with him in Los Angeles Wednesday night along with Johnson, and the Lakers opened discussions with him Thursday. Discussions with the Lakers did not advance to the offer stage.

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Discussions between the Suns and Amar'e Stoudemire remain unresolved, with the issue being Suns chairman Robert Sarver's unwillingness to increase his offer from four years to five years. Stoudemire doesn't yet have an offer from the Knicks, but plans to meet with New York officials Saturday or Monday. Meanwhile, Channing Frye will be staying in Phoenix, where he intended to stay all along. The unrestricted free agent agreed to a five-year, $30 million deal, according to Yahoo! Sports.
 
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With the signing of 2008 second-round pick Nikola Pekovic to a four-year, $13 million deal and Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20 million deal, the Timberwolves are proceeding under the assumption that Al Jefferson will be traded, a person with knowledge of the team's strategy said. But with no takers yet, it is possible that the situation could drag into August, when better offers for the injury-prone power forward might be extracted.

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Anticipating the loss of Chris Bosh in free agency, the Raptors agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent Amir Johnson on a five-year, $34 million deal, a person familiar with the situation said. Johnson, a 6-9 forward who was the 56th pick by the Pistons in the 2005 draft, averaged 12.7 points and 9.8 rebounds coming off the bench last season for Toronto.

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Rudy Gay has agreed to a five-year, $82 million deal with Memphis, a move that takes the restricted free agent off the market, a person with knowledge of the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Gay had been contacted by Minnesota and was receiving significant interest from the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat and Clippers -- teams flush with cap space who viewed Gay as a consolation prize if they missed out on LeBron James. Those teams could have forced Memphis' hand with a front-loaded offer sheet the Grizzlies would've had trouble matching due to luxury-tax implications. But there's no need for that after Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace's pre-emptive strike to keep him.

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Point guard Raymond Felton has been contacted by seven teams, including the three with the most cap money who also happen to be the three he's interested in: the Knicks, Heat and Nets, CBSSports.com has learned.

Felton expects to have a decision in 2-3 days, with the understanding that the teams pursuing him have to first resolve their pursuit of top-tier free agents like James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Felton, who averaged 12.1 points and 5.6 assists for the Bobcats last season, probably won't return to Charlotte because re-signing him would push the Bobcats over the luxury tax.

The Knicks' pursuit of Felton is a strong indication of a backup plan the team is ready to carry out if it doesn't land James. Sources say team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni would then try to get a quick commitment from Felton and use a legit point guard as an enticement to one of the other free agents -- Bosh or Amar'e Stoudemire. Then, the Knicks could try to add one more piece -- such as small forward Mike Miller -- before going over the cap to retain Lee, assuming they didn't have to renounce his rights to do it. If they did, the Knicks would probably have to forego one of the signings in order to fit Lee into their $34.1 million of salary-cap space.

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Minnesota's surprising four-year, $20 million commitment to Darko Milicic took them out of the Gay sweepstakes, but that didn't matter after the Grizzlies retained him with a five-year, $82 million deal Thursday. The signing of Milicic also likely removed the T-Wolves from the running for Lee, who had scheduled a visit with the Timberwolves over the weekend.

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The Magic are quietly exploring sign-and-trade scenarios that would rid the team of Vince Carter and his $17.3 million contract for next season, sources say. Short of that, team officials have indicated that they're willing to further explore more playing time for power forward Brandon Bass, who languished on the bench much of last season. The move would involve moving Rashard Lewis back to his natural small-forward. In addition to elite point guard Chris Paul, who tops his offseason wish list, Dwight Howard has told management he wants the team to pursue a post-up scorer at the power forward position. If GM Otis Smith is unable to acquire Howard's choice for that role, Carlos Boozer, the Magic could counter by utilizing Bass more than they did last season.

There are "no legs" to reports that Bass could be sent to Utah in a sign-and-trade for Boozer, a person with knowledge of Orlando's strategy said. But given Howard's preference for Boozer, it's too early to completely dismiss the scenario.

 








Posted on: June 30, 2010 2:01 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz

If you’re all LeBron-ed out … if you don’t care whether there was a free-agent summit or not … you’ve come to the right place. Here’s some free-agent news that has nothing to do with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh:

While those elite free agents prepare for an unmitigated frenzy set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, a certain gentle giant who’s a couple years away from any such courtship is quietly beginning to formulate a plan that he’d like management to execute. And it turns out that Dwight Howard, the most physically gifted big man in basketball, wants to team up with the most physical gifted little guy in basketball: Chris Paul.

On the eve of the most anticipated free-agent signing period since 1996, when Howard was 10 years old, the Magic center has formulated a short list of players he’d like GM Otis Smith to pursue this summer. No. 1 on the list, according to a person with close ties to Orlando management, is Hornets point guard Chris Paul.

Reports in the past week have noted that Orlando was one of several teams to inquire about Paul’s availability – mostly after CP3 was quoted as saying he’d be open to a trade if New Orleans wasn’t committed to investing in a championship-caliber roster. It turns out Smith was either prescient or had a pretty good idea of what acquisition would please Howard the most.

The idea of Paul tossing alley-oop passes to Howard is tantalizing, to say the least. But is it realistic? George Shinn, the Hornets’ lame-duck owner, issued a joint statement last week with prospective buyer Gary Chouest that reaffirmed the team’s commitment to building around Paul but didn’t rule out any avenues to improve the team. Whoever winds up owning the Hornets would prefer not to move Paul, a franchise cornerstone in every sense of the word. But financial and competitive realities – the Hornets won 37 games last season and are due to be a tax-paying team again in 2010-11 – have conspired to put all options on the table. Even trading Paul.

The Hornets have a point-guard-in-waiting, Darren Collison, who would mitigate the loss of Paul on the court, if not at the ticket office. Any team in the mix for Paul would have to agree to take back Emeka Okafor, scheduled to make $11.8 million next season and $53.2 million over the next for season. The last three seasons will come under a new collective bargaining agreement, in which owners are seeking to dramatically slash salaries. So the full magnitude of taking on such a contract is unknown at this point – but certainly not pleasant.

But one Western Conference executive called the scenario “plausible,” if nothing else because the Magic have shown themselves to have “deep, deep pockets,” the executive said.

To soften the blow from losing Paul, New Orleans would likely insist – and the Magic would agree – on the inclusion of Jameer Nelson in any such trade. Nelson was exposed as a liability in the Magic’s conference finals loss to the Celtics, but could bridge the gap to Collison with a cap-friendly contract that pays him $8.1 million in each of the next three seasons. The Magic have internally explored including Vince Carter in various trades they’re considering, sources say, but Carter’s $17.5 million salary next season might require a third team to get involved or force the Magic to explore another deal for him.

Another player on Howard’s short list, sources say, is Utah free agent Carlos Boozer, who would allow Howard to flourish as a defensive and rebounding force without having to handle the bulk of the scoring on the block, too. The capped-out Magic, of course, would have to acquire Boozer via a sign-and-trade arrangement. The Jazz might be enticed by Brandon Bass and free agent J.J. Redick, for starters.

As an aside, Howard and I obviously think alike. Some of you may recall the “Perfect Team” exercise I performed over several weeks during the 2009-10 season – putting together what I deemed to be the best possible roster that adhered to the $57.7 million salary cap. My center: Howard. My point guard: Paul. It’s not clear whether those two teaming up in Orlando would be perfection. But they would be formidable and fun to watch, for sure.

Here’s some more free-agent buzz with less than 24 hours to go before LeBron-a-Geddon:

• As the Knicks put the final touches on their pitch to James, unofficially scheduled for Thursday in Ohio, team president Donnie Walsh continues to ramp up efforts to trade Eddy Curry and his $11.3 million contract. The extra cap space that would be added to the Knicks’ $34.1 million would either facilitate the pursuit of three max free agents – a new wrinkle in the Knicks’ plan – or allow them to get two max players and retain unrestricted free agent David Lee. SI.com’s Ian Thomsen wrote that the Knicks plan to allow James to play fantasy GM on Thursday and choose his own sidekicks. The Knicks will suggest, SI.com reported, that James consider Atlanta free agent Joe Johnson as a better fit than Dwyane Wade, who like James is at his best when handling the ball the majority of the time. The problem with the plan, short of an unlikely salary dump of Curry’s contract, is all three free agents (James, another wing, and a power forward such as Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire) would have to accept significantly less than the max to fit into New York’s cap space. One rival executive described New York’s attempts to peddle Curry “a tough, tough sell,” and noted that the only way a team under the cap would be willing to absorb Curry is if Danilo Gallinari were included in the trade.

• While Miami completed the anticipated buyout of James Jones to creep closer to the space needed to combine two max free agents with Dwyane Wade, the Nets are on the verge of clearing more space with a buyout of forward Kris Humphries, sources say. If the Nets could trade Humphries’ $3.2 million contract to a team that’s under the cap, they’d achieve the coveted space to import two max free agents. But with no takers for Humphries so far, a mere buyout would require further housekeeping to secure the necessary space.

• There are strong indications that a decision could be coming by the end of the week from Doc Rivers on whether he’s stepping down as the Celtics coach or returning for another championship run – assuming Boston’s core will stay together. That’s an open question, and Rivers’ future and the potential return of free agents Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are as intertwined as they could be. Former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, who would be a strong candidate to replace Rivers if he steps down, had dinner with Donald Sterling Tuesday night to discuss the Clippers’ job for which he’s a finalist with former Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey.

Lakers assistant Brian Shaw leaving Cleveland without a job offer from the Cavs – while Byron Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, was publicly congratulating him – provided the latest strange twist in the Cavs’ offseason. A person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that Shaw and the Cavs were entering the negotiating phase, but it’s not clear how that’s done without a job offer.

• Amar’e Stoudemire and his agent, Happy Walters, sat down with Suns owner Robert Sarver and coach Alvin Gentry in Los Angeles Tuesday in what sources described as a productive meeting aimed at keeping Stoudemire from opting out of his contract and hitting the free-agent market. It wasn’t clear if Sarver, who has taken on the role of conducting basketball business with GMs and agents after GM Steve Kerr and assistant David Griffin left the front office, increased his contract offer to the maximum. Either way, sources with knowledge of Stoudemire’s situation believe there’s a strong possibility that not even a max offer would keep him from opting out and testing the market with teams that have cap space, such as the Knicks, Nets, Bulls and Heat.
Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:26 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2010 2:18 pm
 

Hornets offer coaching job to Blazers' Williams


LOS ANGELES -- The New Orleans Hornets have offered their head coaching position to Portland assistant Monty Williams, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

The offer came Friday afternoon after talks broke down with Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau, whose indecision as he helps coach the Celtics in the NBA Finals bumped Williams from No. 2 on the Hornets' list to No. 1. Thibodeau also interviewed with Bulls officials in Los Angeles before the Finals began, signaling his desire to pursue jobs other than the one vacated in New Orleans when interim coach Jeff Bower returned to his full-time GM duties after the season.

Bower and Williams' agent, Steve Kauffman, are said to be in the preliminary stages of negotiations, with financial terms and certain key contractual details yet to be broached. But close friends of Williams, 38, who played for five teams during a nine-year NBA playing career and became Nate McMillan's most trusted assistant in Portland, say he is excited about the opportunity. No serious hangups are expected in the negotiations.

Thibodeau, who has a full plate with the Celtics down 1-0 in the Finals with Game 2 on Sunday, has now emerged as the leading candidate for the Bulls' job. After Thibodeau allowed a Thursday deadline to accept the Hornets' offer lapse -- a deadline that Bower has told friends he did not impose -- the Hornets conducted a lenghty second interview by phone on Thursday with Williams. The Blazers assistant performed well in the interview process, impressing Hornets officials with his preparation and enthusiasm for the job.






Posted on: May 27, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 1:07 pm
 

Thibodeau hires agent; series complicates search

LOS ANGELES – While Tom Thibodeau remains the front-runner for the Hornets’ head coaching position, the extension of the Celtics-Magic series has complicated efforts by both parties to close the deal.

Thibodeau, architect of the Boston defense that ousted LeBron James from the playoffs, is entrenched in a suddenly difficult Eastern Conference finals with Orlando as the Celtics’ 3-0 lead has dwindled to 3-2 heading into Game 6 Friday night in Boston. In preparation for a contract negotiation with New Orleans, Thibodeau hired leading sports representation firm Creative Artists Agency on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. CAA has an expanding coaching business in addition to its dealings with top free agents James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Celtics’ difficulty in closing out the Magic also has affected the progress of other coaching searches, most notably Atlanta’s. The Hawks, who have twice interviewed Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, the leading candidate for the job, have been unable to schedule an interview with Mark Jackson due to his broadcasting and travel obligations in the Eastern Conference finals. That interview is expected to take place in the next couple of days, according to a person familiar with that situation.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have officially embarked on their search for a candidate to replace Mike Brown, who was fired after back-to-back 60-win seasons. At or near the top of the list is Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. But the Cavs have quietly begun conducting background checks on several other candidates and have been privately saying in those conversations that James, a soon-to-be-free agent, will not be making the decision, according to a person familiar with the Cavs’ search. James certainly will have input, but the person said James doesn’t want his fingerprints on the Cavs’ hire – in part because the organization doesn’t yet know if he will be staying or leaving as a free agent.

A person with close ties to James told CBSSports.com that he remains undecided, citing the complicated series of decisions league-wide on coaching hires and the movement of other top free agents. Wade told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Thursday that he plans to sit down with fellow CAA clients James and Bosh to jointly discuss their options.

The Bulls and Nets also are interested in Thibodeau, though in Chicago’s case, his hiring of an agent could complicate matters since the Bulls are one of the only teams in the NBA that do not negotiate with coaching agents. Portland assistant Monty Williams also remains on the radar for the Nets, Hornets and Clippers, who also are interested in Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin. A person familiar with the situation said Williams is believed to be the No. 2 choice in New Orleans if Thibodeau says no. Williams performed extremely well in the interview process and impressed incoming Hornets owner Gary Chouest and team president Hugh Weber.

The Clippers, according to sources, remain hopeful of persuading Larry Brown to leave Charlotte for L.A., but pressure is expected to mount on Brown to tell the Bobcats’ brass definitively if he’s saying or leaving so the team doesn’t get shut out in the search for qualified replacements.
Posted on: May 24, 2010 2:40 am
Edited on: June 5, 2010 2:16 pm
 

Cavs fire Brown; next up, LeBron (UPDATE)

The unraveling of the Cavaliers’ season came to its inevitable conclusion early Monday with a source confirming to CBSSports.com that coach Mike Brown has been fired.

Back-to-back 60-win seasons couldn’t save Brown from the backlash of another premature playoff ouster after the Cavs, with the best record in the league, were eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the Boston Celtics.

By firing Brown, the 2008-09 NBA coach of the year, by Sunday at midnight, the Cavs avoided his $4.5 million salary for next season becoming fully guaranteed. Since he was let go before the deadline, only half of Brown’s salary is guaranteed.

Brown, a strong defensive coach groomed in the successful Spurs organization, will immediately become a candidate for head coaching openings in New Orleans and Atlanta and perhaps elsewhere.

According to a second source familiar with the Cavs' strategy, Brown's ouster was the first -- and most important -- piece of the puzzle that had to be solved before Cleveland could proceed with its plan to persuade LeBron James to return to the Cavs once the free-agent negotiating period begins July 1. Recent reports have indicated that James recused himself from the decision on Brown, but decision makers in the organization were well aware that he was not pleased with the way the team failed to adjust to its opponent's style of play for the second straight postseason. Last season, it was Orlando foiling the Cavs' simplistic defensive rotations. This time, it was Boston shredding the Cavs' defense with Rajon Rondo's dribble penetration and mismatches on the interior, with Kevin Garnett exposing Antawn Jamison for the entire six-game series.

In a telling dose of doom for Brown after the Cavs' ouster in Game 6 of the conference semis, James was noncommittal about Brown and declined to come to his defense publicly when asked. Despite Brown's regular season success, it was only a matter of time before the playoff losses caught up to him. And in Cleveland, where an entire city is bracing for James' anticipated foray into unrestricted free agency, the regular season doesn't matter. Playoffs and championships do.

So with everyone from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to President Obama urging LeBron to weigh his chances of winning a title in another city, the process of sucking up to James begins anew. What coach would persuade him to stay? Or better yet, what coach and supporting cast would persuade him not to leave?

Despite the Cavs' best efforts to placate him with roster additions that have not worked -- Mo Williams, Shaquille O'Neal, Jamison -- there is a growing belief among those familiar with the situation that James is more open than ever to the possibility that he would be able to find a better supporting cast in Chicago. Several factors independent of the Cavs' playoff collapse have enhanced the Bulls' position. The possibility of playing with Derrick Rose, and the fact that the Bulls have left their coaching job vacant -- with James' buddy, John Calipari, lurking in the wings and with Phil Jackson's contractual situation with the Lakers still unresolved -- have conspired to make the Cavs' job of keeping him even harder.

Step one was firing Brown, whether LeBron was directly involved in the decision or not. The next set of dominoes will begin tumbling almost immediately, with Cleveland engaging in a coaching search and LeBron getting some clarity as to what he'd be returning to if he stayed in Cleveland.

Whether Brown deserved to be fired is hardly the issue. Given the expectations, and what was at stake for James' future, it's hard to argue with the decision. Under those circumstances, you can't bring a team with the best record in the league into the playoffs and lose as thoroughly as the Cavs did and expect to keep your job. All we know for sure, though, is that one shoe has dropped. The big ones -- the franchise-shaping ones -- are coming next.




 
 
 
 
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