Rick Pitino thinks Brad Stevens is a perfect fit for the Boston Celtics

9 Comments

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Brad Stevens was introduced as the Boston Celtics new coach in early July. The former Butler head coach is making the daring jump, leaving the college ranks for the NBA. In the past, this has not gone well for many great collegiate coaches.

John Calipari lasted three seasons in New Jersey and Rick Pitino, who was successful with the New York Knicks, had a 102-146 record in three-plus seasons with the Boston Celtics. Just a reminder, these are the last two head coaches to win the national championship.

Despite the lack of success from coaches in the past, Pitino believes that Stevens will be able to make the transition as the head coach of Celtics.

“It’s all about your personality,” Pitino said during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“Brad Stevens is a perfect fit, perfect, couldn’t be more of a perfect fit to go from college to the pros. He runs pro offense. He runs a pro defense.”

Pitino left his post at Providence College for the Knicks opening in 1987. But even before he became the head coach at PC, he was an assistant under Hubie Brown in New York.  Serving as an NBA assistant coach was considered a prerequisite to being an NBA head coach in Pitino’s mind. Although, he sees Stevens as an exception to that rule.

“I spent two years with Hubie Brown as an assistant, that prepared me,” Pitino said.

“It’s so foreign. It’s such a foreign game, the pros to college. That is an adjustment that’s difficult to make unless you’ve been there. Brad is one of the few people I think can do it. I think Coach K can do it because of his Olympic experience. But it’s very difficult to do unless you have experience as an assistant.”

Stevens is a great X’s-and-O’s coach. He has also been on the forefront of the advanced statistic movement in the game of basketball, which includes his analytic specialist Drew Cannon. The rise in the in-depth basketball statistics is something that Pitino himself has noticed during the course of the summer.

While speaking with several professional scouts, Pitino was presented with Peyton Siva’s shooting percentages. It was broken down, not by makes or misses, but into segments, indicating what areas on the floor Siva shoots the best from.

“I was a little blown away by that,” Pitino said.

“The Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as seven, eight other teams in the NBA have adopted the version of baseball’s ‘Moneyball.’ They’re doing it, and before you know it 28 of the 30 teams in the league [will use it], and then it will filter down to college.”

Stevens was given a six-year deal by Boston, worth $22 million. So like Pitino, Danny Ainge and Co. have faith in the 36-year-old head coach that guided Butler to back-to-back national title games.

As for Pitino, he’s made the jump to the NBA twice, one good stint, one bad stint, though the college game has suited him just fine. It’s led him to Final Fours at three different schools, a pair of national titles, and oh yeah a spot in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

Follow @terrence_payne

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

Getty Images
1 Comment

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.

Bulls: No decision yet on Rajon Rondo’s future with team

2 Comments

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.

Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.

Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.

Report: Chris Paul met with Clipper officials to talk future of franchise, himself

1 Comment

Chris Paul is going to talk to a lot of teams this summer, but if you ask people around the league, most seem to think he will re-sign with the Clippers. The ultimate reason is money: As president of the players’ union he helped steer the new CBA negotiations, which included changing the “over 36 rule” — limiting max contracts to players who turn 36 during the time of the deal — into the “over 38 rule.” That meant 32-year-old Paul could sign one more five-year max contract.

Paul also wants to win, and it’s hard to see how the assembled team in Los Angeles — which is certainly a top 5-7 NBA team, maybe a little higher when healthy — picks up a ring. Especially with the Golden State juggernaut not going anywhere.

Paul has started talking to the Clippers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

I doubt that discussion was much about money — the Clippers will offer a five-year max contract. That’s not even up for debate.

The discussion was how to build the Clippers into a contender. Will Blake Griffin, also a free agent, be back and be part of that? What about J.J. Redick? Can the Clippers get the cap space to lure huge free agents in 2018? LeBron James reportedly wants to come to Los Angeles, although whether he wants to be a Clipper is another question. (For the record, I don’t buy the idea LeBron would “never” be a Clipper. While it may be highly unlikely, people I have spoken to around the league closer to LeBron’s thinking say he wants to keep every option open, play out next season, then see where things stand. He would not fully rule out playing with Chris Paul, who could still be in L.A.)

The Clippers have backed themselves into a corner by trading away picks for veterans, and not developing young players into guys who can contribute in the rotation. When was the last time the Clippers had their Patrick McCaw or Dewayne Dedmon? Without those young, affordable players, it becomes hard to put a good roster together and keep it together. It’s part of what Jerry West — with some help from GM Lawrence Frank — need to bring to Doc Rivers’ Clippers.

That’s likely part of the discussion, too.

There’s a lot for the sides to talk about.

Michael Jordan sent Russell Westbrook personal MVP congratulatory note

Getty Images
5 Comments

Russell Westbrook is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, he’s now an MVP, and he wears Jordan Brand Nikes.

Still, it has to be a bit humbling to get a personal, signed note from Michael Jordan himself.

Which is exactly what he got on Tuesday, a congratulatory note from the GOAT.

The note said (in all caps):

Congrats Russell.

I got buy first MVP award before my first ring, too… keep going!

It was then signed by Jordan.

Westbrook could probably fill a second home with memorabilia from his career, but this is one he’s likely going to keep safe.