Billy Donovan’s blueprint to success in Oklahoma City laid out by Steve Kerr in Bay Area

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It’s a big gamble: Replace a coach the players like and respect, then tell the new guy to modernize the team’s offense, and turn team into a contender in his first season on an NBA bench.

It’s exactly what is being asked of Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City, where he was hired on Thursday after 19 years as the coach of Florida.

It’s also what was asked of Steve Kerr this past season in Golden State — and he had Jay-Z level success. The Warriors made the leap under Kerr, winning 67 regular season games (in a crazy deep Western Conference) and becoming title favorites.

Kerr has laid out a blueprint that Donovan can follow this summer and into next season to bring the same success to the Midwest. Donovan has been handed the keys to a Ferrari — healthy this team is a serious title contender — but crash the car and Kevin Durant likely bolts next summer in free agency. Then Russell Westbrook follows him a year later.

No pressure.

We need to start here: This hire was not some massive reach by Thunder GM Sam Presti. He was not pulling a coach from obscurity — this is a guy a number of NBA teams have eyed for years (including the Magic, who thought they had him as their coach until Donovan backed out last minute years ago). Donovan’s former players such as Bradley Beal, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Joakim Noah sang his praises and have said they know he can succeed at the next level.

“Billy Donovan is a fantastic coach, and one that probably doesn’t get enough credit for just how good he is,” Rob Dauster, the main man at our sister site CollegeBasketballTalk, told PBT. “Everyone knows about the back-to-back national titles that he won, but I’d argue that the best coaching performance of his collegiate career came back in the 2013-14 season. Florida went 36-3 that season, running roughshod over the SEC and reaching the Final Four with a roster that didn’t feature one NBA player on it.”

The first step in the Steve Kerr blueprint: Hire top-flight NBA assistants.

Get guys with experience, guys whose strengths are Donovan’s weaknesses. Kerr and the Warriors opened the checkbook to poach Alvin Gentry away from Doc Rivers and the Clippers — he was the best offensive mind among the assistant coaches out there. Donovan needs some guys who can show him where the potholes are, who can ease his transition to the next level.

Next step: Meet with the players on the roster during the summer and start to form a relationship.

Donovan may have left college, but he is still recruiting (primarily keeping Durant in OKC). Donovan can’t win his new players all the way over in one meeting, but he can start to build the foundation he will need come the season. Of course, sit down with Durant and Westbrook first. But Kerr flew to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut and took the time to get to know everyone on the roster. Donovan needs to meet with everyone – and when he does he needs to have a vision and a plan. Kerr was specific, for example he told Harrison Barnes he wanted him to work off the ball more not be the sixth man asked to create for everyone (something Barnes welcomed with open arms). Donovan can’t walk in and make vague promises — he must tell his players exactly how he wants to use them and why this will be good for them and the team.

Third step: modernize the offense.

This is one of the things Presti wanted most of all, what he thought was holding back the Thunder was Brooks’ conventional offense. It was predictable and too often devolved into a Durant or Westbrook isolation (which worked because they are Durant and Westbrook but was not ideal). Presti wants an offense more like we have seen in San Antonio and Golden State.

“The thing that makes him so appealing from an NBA perspective is that his coaching style will fit in well at the professional level,” CollegeBasketballTalk’s Dauster said. “At Florida, he ran a ball-screen motion offense built around floor-spacing, which are offensive concepts that are quite prevalent in the NBA. Not all college coaches will fit in well at the professional level. Donovan will.”

Final step: Keep working toward the big picture.

The finish line is not when the season tips off, even though it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. A hot November is great but can be fool’s gold. Be committed to the process, be open to the suggestions of his assistant coaches and players, tweak things as needed, but always stay focused on the goal of being a team hitting its stride as the playoffs start.

Do all that, and he’ll still need some breaks to go his way — that is life in the NBA. Health is at the top of his wish list.

Do all that and he’ll have a chance to win big — and with that keep Durant in Oklahoma City in 2016.

Which is the real reason he was hired.

Clippers guard Landry Shamet tests positive for coronavirus

Landry Shamet coronavirus
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Clippers’ guard Landry Shamet just a few days ago talking to the media: “There’s no option with no risk at this point.”

Saturday we learned that Shamet has tested positive for the coronavirus. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

This comes a couple of days after a positive test for one member of the Clippers traveling party caused the team to shut down its training facility (that may have been Shamet, it may not have been, the Clippers are not saying).

Shamet has to go through a 14-day quarantine and two negative tests 24 hours apart before he can join his teammates in Orlando, which he still plans to do. If there are no setbacks, he will be in Orlando and cleared well before the Clippers take on the Lakers on opening night.

The second-year shooting guard is an important role player for the Clippers, scoring 9.7 points per game but shooting 39.2% from three — he is critical to their floor spacing in certain lineups. He is exactly the kind of player that will need to have a couple of big playoff games — when defenses collapse on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — if Los Angeles is going to be a threat to win it all. As they believe they are.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert ‘in a good place,’ trying to move forward

Rudy Gobert
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There were the tweets from strangers.

“I hate you.”

“You ruined the whole world.”

“You deserve it.”

And there was the scorn from inside his own locker room, the presumption that he infected a teammate with coronavirus, the suggestion that his recklessness somehow caused the entire sporting world to come to an absolute standstill.

Utah center Rudy Gobert is still standing tall, after all that and more.

Plenty of eyes will be on Gobert when the NBA season, the one that shut down March 11 when he became the first player in the league to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, takes a giant step toward returning by having teams gather at the Disney complex in Central Florida over the next few days. The Jazz will be a fascinating case study during this restart, particularly regarding whether or not Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — a fellow All-Star who was diagnosed with the virus shortly after the shutdown began and did not hide his anger with Gobert about it all — can coexist peacefully again.

“I’m happy now. I’m in a good place, you know,” Gobert told reporters Friday. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”

Gobert answered questions for about 11 minutes. He talked about the relationship with Mitchell. (“It’s never going to be perfect,” he said, acknowledging strains that have been no secret.) He talked about the potential of signing a lucrative extension — he’s supermax-eligible — with the Jazz, which could happen before next season. (“I don’t plan on leaving right now,” he said.) He talked about his recovery from the virus, which is ongoing, at least in how his sense of smell hasn’t totally recovered. (“Smelling, I took that for granted too. It’s back now, it’s back at 80%, I’m not worried,” he said.)

He spoke softly, calmly, thoughtfully. And even though he is the two-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year, he didn’t swat any question away.

“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you and threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being,” Gobert said. “But at the same time, people just judge you on the perception they have and the perception they get. Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action.”

In this case, that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

A picture, a video, an interview, an action. It was the start of the downfall.

It was the morning of March 9: Before leaving a media session at shoot-around in Salt Lake City on Monday in advance of a game against Detroit, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table, devices that reporters who cover the Jazz were using. He meant it as a joke. When he tested positive two days later, it was no laughing matter.

The Jazz were in Oklahoma City, just moments away from starting a game against the Thunder, when word came that Gobert tested positive. The game was called off. The season was suspended that same night.

Just like that, Gobert was a center of negative attention.

“First of all, you make sure he’s OK,” said Orlando guard Evan Fournier, a fellow French national-team player, who reached out often to check on Gobert. “You know, you call him and once we’re on the phone or just talking, text, whatever, you just ask him a few questions. How is he feeling, blah, blah, blah. And then once he starts to open up and say things about how he sees the whole situation, then you just try to give your best judgment to him. And you know, that’s what I did.”

Gobert immediately started trying to show remorse. He donated $200,000 to a fund established to help those who work part-time at Jazz games, people who lost income because contests were canceled. More money — about $310,000 — went to families affected by the pandemic in Utah and Oklahoma City, plus in his native France. He taped a public-service announcement for the league.

“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”

For his part, Mitchell said the relationship with Gobert has improved.

“Right now, we’re good,” Mitchell said Thursday. “We’re going out there ready to hoop.”

The Jazz have secured a playoff berth. They’ll be without the injured Bojan Bogdanovic for the remainder of the season, yet still have enough depth to be considered a contender in the Western Conference.

And Gobert expects he and Mitchell, on the court anyway, will be fine.

“As long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters,” Gobert said. “And, you know, I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we plan on continuing doing.”

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward may leave bubble in September for birth of child

Celtics' Gordon Hayward
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The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward has been at his wife’s side for the birth of their three children, he’s not going to miss the fourth — even if that means leaving the bubble.

Hayward’s wife Robyn is due with their fourth child in September — very possibly while the team is still playing — and he said in a conference call with reporters that he will leave the bubble to be with her. Via Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“There’ll be a time if and when we’re down there and she’s going to have the baby, I’m for sure going to be with her,” Hayward said of his wife, Robyn. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there…

“It’s a pretty easy decision for me on that,” Hayward said. “I’ve been at the birth of every one of my children, and I think there are more important things in life. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“I know the NBA has a protocol for that type of thing, and hopefully I can do the quarantining and testing the appropriate amount of time and then be back with the boys.”

That protocol says that if Hayward notifies the team and league, is gone fewer than seven days, gets tested and is negative every day he is outside the bubble, then upon his return he will have a four-day quarantine (so long as he continues to have negative tests). This applies to all players who might need to leave the Walt Disney World campus for a family emergency or situation (Utah point guard Mike Conley‘s wife is due with their child in late August, for example).

If Hayward is gone longer or isn’t tested every day outside the bubble — or, if a player leaves the bubble without notifying teams — he has a 10-day quarantine upon his return.

The second round of the playoffs are set to begin Aug. 30 and will run as long as Sept. 13. The Eastern Conference Finals — which the Celtics have a good chance of making, but likely would need to beat out a strong Toronto squad — start Sept. 15 and run through the end of the month.

Hayward will be missed, and it’s not just his 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, or 4.1 assists per game, or the fact he shot 39.2% from three and is an important part of the Celtics’ floor spacing. It’s also that Brad Stevens uses Hayward in versatile lineups — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Hayward make a very switchable foursome — that can both defend and difficult for opponents to stop. Boston loses some of that versatility without him, Semi Ojeleye is not going to be able to give the Celtics the same quality minutes.

 

NBA releases scrimmage schedule for restart, games tip-off July 22

NBA scrimmage schedule
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We are 18 days away from NBA basketball.

Well, NBA scrimmages at least. On the Fourth of July, the NBA released the schedule of scrimmage games for teams, which begin July 22 and run for six days, leading up to the start of the season July 30.

Here is the full schedule, with each team having three scrimmage games, all against teams from the other conference or unlikely playoff matchups.

The details on the broadcasts of the NBA scrimmage schedule of games have not been released, but it’s safe to expect they will be available on the team’s regional networks at the least (with maybe a few games picked up nationally).

Teams arrive at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando starting next week. After players and team staff go through a 24-48 quarantine period (with two negative tests 24 hours apart), they will begin full team practices in the run-up to these scrimmages, and eventually the eight “seeding” games, which count as regular-season games.

Those seeding games start July 30 with a TNT double-header of Utah vs. New Orleans followed by the battle of Los Angeles, the Lakers vs. the Clippers (the top two seeds in the West heading into these games).