NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Lakers delaying coaching search for an Anthony-James push — News broke yesterday that ex-Lakers guard Derek Fisher has agreed to become the New York Knicks’ new coach, thus taking a name once thought to be on the Lakers’ list off the market. Los Angeles continues to churn through names and interviews in search of its next coach, but could the delayed/slow search be due to its interest in landing Carmelo Anthony and/or LeBron James in free agency this summer? Sam Amick of USA Today has more:
The slow pace of the Lakers’ coaching search that began April 30 when Mike D’Antoni resigned has been timed deliberately with the upcoming free agency period in the NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Specifically, the idea that the Lakers could beat the odds and land the likes of the Heat’s LeBron James, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony or any of the other superstars who may be free agents on July 1 has led the Lakers to plod through their process so as to not limit their potential options. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the search.
But how much allure do the Lakers still have after their 27-55 season that was the franchise’s worst since they moved to Los Angeles in 1960? We’ll soon find out.
While it appears highly likely that James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will remain with the Heat, the outcome of these Finals is expected to play a part in their decisions. And there is a strong hope outside of Miami — from Los Angeles all the way to New York — that the Spurs can pull off the series win and inspire some of the league’s best players to explore their options elsewhere.
Yet according to two people with knowledge of the situation, Anthony’s part in this fluid free agency situation is worth monitoring as James is known to be interested in eventually playing with his close friend. Anthony also has a player option on his deal for next season (worth $23.5 million), and his connection to James has teams like the Lakers, Knicks and even the Heat wondering whether he may be able to join the four-time NBA MVP. The people requested anonymity because of sensitive nature of free agency talk.
Should some iteration of the Heat’s Big Four decide to head West to join Kobe Bryant and offer the Lakers an instant rebuild, they would be more than welcome to the team that has only three players with guaranteed contracts on their roster for next season (Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre). The Knicks, meanwhile, would love for everyone to delay their plans for one season by opting in only to head for The Big Apple in the summer of 2015 when their payroll drops all the way down to about $17 million.
The reality that the Lakers may not hire a coach until July leaves their candidates in limbo, as they have already interviewed six former head coaches in Byron Scott (New Orleans Hornets, New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers), Lionel Hollins (Memphis Grizzlies), Mike Dunleavy (Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers), Kurt Rambis (Minnesota Timberwolves), George Karl (Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Seattle SuperSonics, Bucks, Denver Nuggets) and Alvin Gentry (Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Clippers, Phoenix Suns).
No. 2: Report: Cavs offered Calipari $80M deal — The next name on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coaching search list is that of former player/Cavs legend Mark Price. One of the past names on the team’s list was none other than Kentucky coach John Calipari, who, according to ESPN.com, got quite the pricey offer to take over as coach and team president:
NBA coaching sources have told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ recent pitch to Kentucky coach John Calipari was a 10-year offer worth nearly $80 million and included the role of coach and team president.
Kentucky on Thursday announced that Calipari has been signed to a new seven-year deal worth $52.5 million guaranteed.
Sources told ESPN’s Andy Katz that Kentucky’s new deal with Calipari was completed in April and that the Cavs’ proposal was made within the past two weeks.
During an interview on Kentucky Sports Radio, Calipari confirmed he was approached by NBA teams “in a hard way.” Calipari did not offer any details of his discussions to return to the pros. He coached the Nets from 1996-99, making the playoffs once.
Sources told Stein that part of Cleveland’s motivation to chase Calipari for its job was the belief that hiring Calipari — who is well known to be a good friend of LeBron James — would greatly enhance its chances of convincing the NBA’s best player to return to his home state in free agency this summer.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has been highly motivated to recruit a marquee coach to be the new face of the franchise, but Calipari and UConn’s Kevin Ollie are off the market now thanks to the new contracts at their respective schools. Florida’s Billy Donovan and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo also rebuffed the Cavs during the current college basketball offseason.
No. 3: NBPA stint helped Fisher land new gig; Relationship with Jackson was key — At 11:30 a.m. ET today, Derek Fisher will be officially announced as the next coach of the New York Knicks. That move will reunite him with his former coach (and current Knicks president) Phil Jackson as the duo tries to lift the Knicks from their up-and-(mostly)-down ways of the last few seasons. As our Steve Aschburner points out, Fisher’s past role as president of the National Basketball Players Association helped prepare him for his coaching job. That, plus his long-standing relationship with Jackson (as Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck points out) helped push Fisher from player to coach in weeks, not years.
That’s where Fisher might have an edge over other former players who were hired with no prior coaching experience.
What Fisher had to do as union prez sure seemed a lot like coaching to me, at least in the skill set required.
Weighing the demands of various constituencies, each with its own agenda? Check.
Keeping the guys who dislike you away from the guys, as MLB’s Billy Martin used to say, who haven’t quite made up their minds? Check.
Staying true to your own vision, knowing when to bend and when to stiffen? Check.
Dealing with the media and looking good in a suit? Check and double-check.
We never saw Jason Kidd, Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson or other recent NBA coaching neophytes – no assistant’s apprenticeship or D League prep work required — handle chores as complex and urgent as Fisher did during the lockout. He coped with the owners on one side, his peers in the players union on another, the NBA brass – commissioner David Stern and deputy Adam Silver – on yet another side and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter (with his own undisclosed agendas at the time, as it turned out) on another side still.
Fisher, 39, will bring a wealth of knowledge to the job—as an 18-year NBA veteran, a five-time NBA champion and a general student of the game.
What might matter most however, is his bond with the man who hired him: Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ team president.
Jackson and Fisher spent nine seasons together, as coach and player, with the Los Angeles Lakers. They toasted five titles together, navigated the Kobe–Shaq feuds together, took bus rides and plane rides and all sorts of metaphorical detours together, over two separate periods between 1999 and 2011.
The rookie Knicks president and the rookie Knicks coach know each other well.
There is a mutual trust, a mutual understanding and a general agreement about how basketball should be played.
Those were Jackson’s clearly stated priorities on the day he took the job in March, the same priorities that made Steve Kerr his No. 1 target once Jackson fired Mike Woodson. Kerr, like Fisher, has played for Jackson and is steeped in the triangle offense, the equal-opportunity system that Jackson cherishes and wants to install in New York.
Being triangle-fluent was not a prerequisite for the job, but it was a strong attribute.
Fisher certainly has the personality and the intellect to succeed as a coach. In Jackson, he will have the perfect mentor, a daily resource on strategy, practice routines and player management.
This, too, is what Jackson wanted when he embarked on his big Knicks adventure: a student to mold.
No. 4: Hornacek, McDonough form bond in Phoenix — Suns coach Jeff Hornacek just finished up his first season on the bench after a long an illustrious playing career. The team’s GM, Ryan McDonough, has his first season behind him as well after helping Phoenix amass a roster that became one of the surprising success stories of 2013-14. Phoenix has cap room to spare this summer and an overall bright outlook for 2014-15, something that can be attributed to the close working relationship McDonough and Hornacek share, writes of The Arizona Republic:
Just 16 days away from the NBA draft, the Suns are poised to piece together a team that could make an impact in 2014-15. Credit the behind-the-scenes relationship between Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek, who were dropped into this tempest together and emerged with a common vision and surprisingly comparable dispositions.
“Personality-wise, we’re pretty similar, as we are in how we evaluate players,” said McDonough, who replaced Lance Blanks as general manager. “I think that’s a big advantage for us because we’re not fighting much if at all about players. We usually see guys the same way and kind of agree on the best course of action for the team.”
The two are 17 years apart, but it doesn’t feel that way. Hornacek seems younger than 51 and McDonough, despite his youthful face, projects a professionalism and maturity behind his 34 years.
McDonough was hired on May 7 and Hornacek three weeks later. They connected fairly quickly. Credit the coach for his open-mindedness. A runaway ego might have been rattled by a partner in crime relatively new to his field, but Hornacek never saw it that way.
“I think the big thing is if you know basketball, and you’ve been around basketball for a while, I think the thoughts start to be the same for the most part,” he said. “Everyone has seen he’s been with an organization and won a championship, so he saw what it takes to get there.
“I’ve been on some teams that have been almost there. When you have that thought and you’re on same page that way, sometimes we’re looking at other teams going, ‘What are they doing?’ It’s good to be on the same page with the GM.”
Maybe their best shared trait is patience.
It’s easy in the NBA to be seduced by simple athleticism or off-the-chart statistics. The best talent evaluators are relentless in gathering appropriate data and weighing it accordingly. That’s McDonough. He has logged endless hours watching players and is meticulous in his gathering process.
Hornacek’s personality is an ideal fit. He doesn’t overreact. He is not easily seduced. His analysis is thoughtful and measured.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York is may include Kurt Rambis, Rick Fox, Luke Walton and Bill Cartwright … Quite the flopper in his day, Vlade Divac says he’s a big fan of the NBA’s anti-flopping rules … Kings star DeMarcus Cousins is on a bit of an offseason media blitz to try and change the perception about him … A handful of youngsters on the Blazers are already starting to gear up for 2014-15 …