Adidas Eurocamp - Day 2

Jerry Stackhouse eyes NBA coaching job, has met with Phil Jackson about being an assistant with Knicks


TREVISO, Italy — Jerry Stackhouse was in attendance for day one of adidas Eurocamp on Saturday, but he wasn’t there simply as a former NBA player looking to inspire the more than 40 international prospects working out for a large group of general managers and scouts.

Stackhouse, now a year removed from a stellar professional career that lasted 18 seasons, is looking to get into coaching.

He came to Italy as the head coach of the USA Select team, which features a roster full of under-18 talent that will likely land multiple players in the NBA two or three years from now. Stackhouse has been coaching at the AAU level for five years, and has developed an increasing amount of passion for the profession as he’s gained more experience. But like most players, he wasn’t all that certain that this would be his calling once his professional career was finished.

“As a player, I had never thought that I really wanted to coach,” Stackhouse said. “Then I was watching my kids playing on the eighth grade team, and the guy was just rolling the ball out there, and they weren’t really learning. That spurred me to get into it, and I love it. Those last three or four years that I played, I felt like that was still my role. As soon as the season was over I was headed to the AAU circuit.”

Stackhouse may soon be headed back to the NBA.

His desire is to eventually become a head coach, but he wouldn’t mind starting out as an assistant, even at the college or high school level if that’s what it takes. He had an offer to join at least one team last season, and met with Phil Jackson recently to discuss joining the staff of the Knicks.

“I’d like to coach at the pro level,” Stackhouse said. “I had some dialogue with Atlanta last summer. I think I could have been on their staff behind the bench last year, but right out of playing, I just wanted to kind of take some time off. I met with Phil a couple weeks ago about possibly about doing something with their staff.”

The Knicks remain an option, but with the head coaching position not yet filled, there’s some uncertainty there that needs to be settled before it can become a bit more plausible.

“It’s a possibility,” he said. “I think [Jackson] is still figuring it out. He doesn’t know who the head coach is going to be, but I think after that is settled, there could be some realistic possibilities.”

Stackhouse has played for a relative ton of head coaches throughout his career, and has taken things from all of them to build his own style. But he said he’s most comfortable with principles that he learned from his college coach at the University of North Carloina, Dean Smith.

“I think everything goes back, to me, to Dean Smith,” he said. “I gravitated to coaches that had that same philosophy, especially on the defensive end. Obviously on the offensive end sharing the ball, but defensively keeping people out of your middle, sending it down to the baseline and relying on your help.”

He mentioned  Avery Johnson, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown and Doug Collins as being coaches whose systems he would most like to emulate, but also was open to taking something from the more modern analytic side after spending time with Rick Carlisle in Dallas.

“With Rick Carlisle and his analytics of the game, it drove me nuts as a player,” Stackhouse said. “He wanted to run this play that hadn’t been working in the game, because for him it was a 70-something percent play. Now I understand that I want to go with a 70 percent play, and just because it doesn’t work it still is a good play for us.”

Stackhouse is hopeful that showcasing himself in front of team personnel at adidas Eurocamp will help them see that this is something he truly wants to do, and not just because his playing days are done.

“This here is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “Everybody’s here, getting a chance to see my passion for it. You run into that bias sometimes, where the feeling is that guys want to coach just because they can’t play anymore. I think my last five years showed that’s not the case. I really have a passion and love for teaching kids, and I look at NBA players now as kids.”

Stackhouse would obviously love to jump right into a head coaching chair, but he realizes that’s a bit of a long shot, despite the fact that things seem to be trending that way, with multiple former players now getting those chances. All he wants is that initial opportunity, and he believes the rest will take care of itself.

“The perfect blueprint would be Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson, do the broadcasting and then fall into the right seat, but it doesn’t happen that way for everybody,” Stackhouse said. “I would love to have that opportunity to come right out of playing and get a chance at a seat, but everybody’s path is a little bit different. We’ll see.

“If I get my feet in the door and show what I can do, I could ascend pretty fast.”

Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor
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76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.