Report: Nuggets hire Brian Shaw as next coach

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Brian Shaw has finally landed a head coaching job.

And it’s a good one — he’s taking over the 57-win Denver Nuggets.

This was first reported by the Denver Post. It was confirmed by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports who got the word from Shaw himself.

This is a quality hire by Denver — a young coach that the players will respect to go with a young team on the rise. You never know how it will go when a coach gets his first shot in the big chair, but this seems as good a fit as can be. Shaw replaces a good coach in George Karl, who was the NBA Coach of the Year this past season, but one that had trouble getting the Nuggets to advance deep in the playoffs (although injury had something to do with that this year).

Shaw beat out the guy Memphis fired in Lionel Hollins and Spurs assistant Brett Brown for the job.

Shaw was drafted out of UC Santa Barbara to the Larry Bird era Boston Celtics, but his playing days are best remembered picking up rings with the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. When his playing days ended he joined Phil Jackson’s coaching staff and picked up rings as the Kobe/Gasol Lakers won titles. When Jackson retired the Lakers players wanted Shaw to take over, but management wanted to go another direction (which has gone oh so smoothly). After that Shaw has been an assistant to Frank Vogel in Indiana, where the Pacers have developed into a force.

It’s a heck of a resume, but it took a long time for Shaw to land a head coaching job (there rumors are he did not interview well, at least not at first).

Now he’s got the job at the head of a good young team. The Nuggets have Ty Lawson running the point, a great stretch four in Danilo Gallinari (when he gets back from knee surgery a couple months into next season), the enigmatic JaVale McGee and quality energy guy Kenneth Faried.

The big question personnel is will the addition of Shaw and the money offered be enough to keep Andre Iguodala with the Nuggets. Also, Geoge Karl got in trouble for leaning on veterans like Andre Miller when the management wanted to develop youngsters like Evan Fournier.

The Nuggets are a good offensive team, Shaw doesn’t need to tinker much on that end and has said he will not run the triangle in Denver (doesn’t really fit the personnel at all). What matters is he needs to improve the defense, which was solid but not great at 11th in the NBA last season in points allowed per possession this past season. Improve the defense (around McGee?) and the Nuggets become a real threat.

Shaw will relate well to the players. He is not wed to the triangle offense, he will go with what works (although you can expect a few triangle sets in there). Expect the Nuggets to stay up-tempo and fun. Expect them to stay good.

Report: Kyrie Irving’s top choice for trade is Spurs

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.

Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.

Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.

Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.

So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?

Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.

But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.