Report: Thunder ‘preparing offer, pushing to hire’ Florida’s Billy Donovan to be next coach

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UPDATE 11:03 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that the Thunder are preparing an offer for Billy Donovan and pushing him to accept the job as the team’s next head coach. The deal would reportedly need to start in the $6 million per year range in order for Donovan to consider it.

Kevin Durant has reportedly reached out to at least one of Donovan’s former players to do somewhat of a reference check on the coach, and has become “generally positive” about the potential hiring.

7:49 a.m.: Almost from the moment Scott Brooks was fired, the name first mentioned as the frontrunner to fill the vacancy was Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Now Thunder management and Donovan have started formal talks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti have opened a dialogue about the position, which became available a week ago after the dismissal of Scott Brooks…

Donovan is the first known candidate to talk with the Thunder about the job. It was not immediately clear how many other candidates, if any, Presti plans to sit down with.

People in front offices around the NBA like Donovan and think he’s a guy who can make the transition from college to the NBA (a door opened again with the success Brad Stevens has had in Boston). Donovan is believed to have the Xs and Os chops, plus he is a strong motivator. Donovan and Presti have a relationship already (Presti has hired a couple people off the Florida staff in recent years). You can add to that rumors floating around the league that Donovan would jump to the NBA for the “right” opportunity — there are not many opportunities that are more “right” than OKC. Even Donovan’s former Gator star Bradley Beal said he thinks his former coach is destined for the NBA.

The Thunder have a lot riding on this hire — Kevin Durant is a free agent in the summer of 2016, Russell Westbrook one year later. If the Thunder are going to keep those guys, they need to either win a title next season or convince the pair they have a better chance of doing that together in OKC than anywhere else.

Which means they need a coach who can elevate this team to a championship level. Brooks can coach, OKC needs to make a “Phil Jackson replaces Doug Collins” or “Steve Kerr replaces Mark Jackson” kind of hire.

Is Presti sure a first-year coach out of the college ranks is they guy who can elevate this team to the highest levels of the NBA? That is a massive gamble.

But the sides are at least discussing it.

 

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.