Who’s next? Five coaches who may replace Monty Williams in New Orleans.

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It came as a bit of a surprise, but Monty Williams has been fired as the head coach in New Orleans.

This is now the best open coaching job in the NBA, and you only need two words to know why: Anthony Davis. This is a team with one of the top three players in the NBA (top five at worst). While there is work to be done. no other team with a coaching vacancy has that foundation.

But with that opportunity will come a lot of pressure on the coach — you have to get this team winning to keep Davis long term. There is pressure on the organization to make the right hire (and add talent to the roster). Next season the Pelican’s roster likely looks similar to this season’s, so a lot of the improvement will need to be internal, and that falls on the coach.

Also, this is a team that should have been better defensively than it was — 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency — so expect GM Dell Demps to look for a defense-first guy.

1) Tom Thibodeau. Yes, he currently has a job, and despite the flood of rumors around the league that he is done there when the season ends, we don’t know how it will shake out. Thibodeau’s name is the first that came up as a potential replacement around the league — and Thibodeau and his people reportedly would consider it if he is let go. Under him, the Pelican defense will get better instantly. There’s no way the Pelicans would find a better, harder-working coach — and one that has a relationship with Davis through USA Basketball. That said, owner Tom Benson would have to open up the checkbook to get him. Also, would the Pelicans be willing to give up a future first rounder to get Thibs out of Chicago?

2) Mike Malone. He was an assistant under Monty Williams for a couple years (not sure if that helps his cause). Malone’s .368 winning percentage in just more than a season in Sacramento wasn’t impressive, but he also didn’t have a roster that was going to do any better. What was impressive is how he was brought in after the Maloof brothers had virtually torched the place and from those ashes built up a real culture for the team. Those Kings had shown real promise before DeMarcus Cousins was hurt (then Malone was fired because the owner wanted to play more up-tempo). He’s a defense-first guy, and he got through to Cousins in a way no other coach has yet. He deserves another chance and would do a good job here, but the hire may not be high profile enough for some.

3) Scott Brooks. He certainly showed he could develop talent and bond with the stars as the coach in Oklahoma City. He’s taken a team all the way to the NBA finals. This is simply a guy who has proven he can do the job. (And if you want to live in a fantasy world where New Orleans has a shot at landing Kevin Durant in 2016, he helps there, too.) He checks off a lot of boxes for Demps. But the reasons he was let go in Oklahoma City — concerns about his conventional offense, and if he was the guy who could coach a team to a title — should give New Orleans a little pause.

4) Mark Jackson. His name will come up. It will come up for every opening. His players in Golden State loved him, and they won. He built the foundation that the Warriors grew off of this season. That said, even more than Brooks, he ran a conventional, predictable offense that was defendable. The bigger concern, he created an “us vs. the world” mentality in the locker room where the world included team management. There was a lot of friction. Do the Pelicans want to bring that into the organization? Or would they be better off looking at someone who wants another chance like Alvin Gentry?

5) Kevin Ollie. If Demps decides to go the college coach route, he could do a lot worse than the UConn coach. Ollie is a high IQ guy who comes with 13 years of NBA background as a player. Also, if you think you have a shot at Durant as a free agent (and I’m not sure that New Orleans does) he can help there, Durant is a big fan. The bigger question: does Ollie really want to give up one of the best gigs in college hoops?

 

 

 

LeBron, Grizzlies, NBA world reacts to death of Tyre Nichols

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Hours after the excruciating video of Memphis police fatally beating Tyre Nichols was released, the Memphis Grizzlies chose not to open their locker room and not speak to the media about it — it was too raw, too painful.

“The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said pregame in an interview with local broadcast partner Bally Sports (via the Associated Press). “It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”

The Grizzlies weren’t the only ones who felt that way around the NBA, emotions were high around the league Friday (as they were around the nation). Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota and Milwaukee released states echoing what the Grizzlies said.

LeBron James used his platform to make a statement, as he has in the past.

Statements were released from the NBA, WNBA, players, the players union and more.

“This is just crazy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said unprompted to open his press conference, discussing the video and incident.

Nichols, 29, was pulled over in a traffic stop by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 and was beaten to death by five officers. The bodycam footage shows Nichols being brutally beaten as he calls out for his mother and is defenseless. Nichols died in the hospital three days later. The five officers involved have been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Dolan says he he has no plan to sell Knicks, retire, but he loves facial recognition

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Knicks owner James Dolan has been better in recent years about staying out of the way of the front office and staying out of the media spotlight — both of which are good for the Knicks and their fans’ sanity.

However, he stepped back in the spotlight the past couple of days — doing an interview on “Good Day New York” on Fox 5 Thursday then WFAN sports talk radio on Friday — and reminded everyone why it’s best when he stays out of it. Here are the highlights of these interviews.

• Dolan isn’t going anywhere, saying to WFAN he is not selling the team, nor does he plan to retire. Via Fred Katz at The Athletic:

“I have no plans whatsoever to sell at this point. I’m not retiring anytime soon. It’s a family-controlled asset, so someone in the family will eventually own it.”

That was a bit of a pipe dream for Knicks fans, there had been no rumors of a sale. With the value of NBA franchises rising rapidly and Dolan enjoying being the owner of one of the biggest brands in the sport, there has been little chance of a sale.

• Dolan defended Madison Square Garden’s controversial use of facial recognition technology to ban attorneys from firms involved in lawsuits against the Knicks or MSG from entering the property (or other Madison Square Garden properties, such as Radio City Music Hall).

“At Madison Square Garden, if you’re suing us, we’re just asking of you — please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us. And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that…

“If someone is suing you, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial. If you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome that person into your home.”

Except, it isn’t a home, it’s a public building where sports and entertainment events take place for which tickets are sold. Also, there are fans saying they have been banned from the building because of social media posts critical of Dolan.

• This policy has created a considerable backlash, including from the New York Attorney General, who said the policy could violate anti-discrimination laws in the state. Lawmakers in the New York state assembly introduced a bill prohibiting sports venues — such as Madison Square Garden — from refusing entry to attorneys or others involved in lawsuits against the organization.

• Dolan said on FOX 5 that the State Liquor Authority reached out to the Madison Square Garden company saying the use of facial recognition technology in this manner could lead to a suspension of their liquor license.

“This isn’t going to bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor.”

Dolan even hinted he could do a dry New York Rangers game on Fox, but he backed away from that idea the next day speaking on WFAN.

• Dolan reiterated his support of current Knicks decision-maker Leon Rose.

Dolan also went on to say he expects the Knicks to make the playoffs this season, however, there is no timeline for the team to contend for a ring.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.