Hawks coach Nate McMillan denies report he’s considered retiring mid-season

Oklahoma City Thunder v Atlanta Hawks
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Things have not gone smoothly for the Atlanta Hawks. They entered the season thinking they would be close to the top of the East, but after a loss Friday night to the Lakers they fell to 17-19 on the season and currently look like a play-in team at best. Coach Nate McMillan and star Trae Young have had tension boil over at points.

That led to a report Friday that McMillan has considered resigning mid-season, from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

McMillan’s job status came into question across the NBA after his exchange with Hawks All-NBA star Trae Young at a gameday shootaround. His job status has been considered safe, and the Hawks have wanted to finish out the season with McMillan on the sideline, sources said. But McMillan, 58, appears to be near the end of his tenure with the Hawks after the season — unless there’s a resignation before then.

McMillan himself denied the report at his pregame media availability.

“We’re trying to get our guys healthy and make another run at the playoffs, but the things that were reported, look, I’m here to coach this year, and I’ve talked to [owner] Tony Ressler many times, and our goal is to make the playoffs. And that’s what I’m working towards…

“Look, at the end of the year, I’ll do as I’ve always done. I’ll talk with my family and see if that flame, that fire, to continue next season, but that’s the end of the season. All of us think about retiring, but that’s at the end of the season. We’re going to move past that, that story.”

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin was more forceful in shooting down the rumor on an Atlanta radio station.

McMillan may not be going anywhere in the short term, but that doesn’t mean things are good in the ATL.

Buzz about the poor relationship between McMillan and Young has been all over the league this season, long before any of these reports. Historically, things have not ended well for NBA coaches who have a poor relationship with their stars. There already has been a shakeup within the front office, with Travis Schlenk stepping down as the head of basketball operations. With Young in the first year of his five-year max extension, he’s not likely going anywhere.

However, the Hawks have some hard questions to answer. McMillan is the second coach Young has not gotten along with, Lloyd Pierce had the same issue, and at some point the question becomes, “is it the coach?” Also, the Hawks made a big move this offseason to bring in Dejounte Murray to form a backcourt with Young, but that hasn’t gelled on the court, and there are reports of chemistry issues in the locker room as well. Young is not exactly the most popular teammate in the league.

Atlanta has a lot of work to get back to the conference finals they were in a couple of years ago, a run that now looks like a fluke. Figuring out the coaching situation — and the coach/Young relationship — may wait until the offseason, but everything needs to start with that foundation.

 

 

Coach, front office updates from around NBA: Fizdale headed to Suns bench

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Things continue to move and settle around the NBA as teams find coaches (well, except Toronto) and some front office personnel move around. Here is the latest around the league.

• Former Grizzlies and Knicks head coach David Fizdale, an associate general manager with the Jazz last season, is returning to the bench as an assistant on Frank Vogel’s staff in Phoenix, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Fizdale and Vogel are tight, remember Fizdale was in the bubble on Vogel’s staff when the Lakers won a ring. Give new owner Mat Ishbia credit for spending, he made Kevin Young the highest-paid assistant coach in the league to stay with the team and has now hired a former head coach to be a top assistant. That’s a lot of coaching firepower, now the Suns just need to fill out the roster with some firepower around Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

• If you want to become a general manager in the NBA, the best way is to be an assistant GM for Sam Presti in Oklahoma City. Apparently. Presti has had five different assistant GMs under him and now all five have gone on to be general managers elsewhere.

The latest is Will Dawkins, who will be the GM and No. 2 in the power structure in Washington under new team president (and former Clippers GM) Michael Winger, reports Josh Robbins and David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Also in the front office in Washington is former Hawks GM Travis Schlenk. That’s a lot of brain power and good hires. The question remains how much freedom owner Ted Leonsis — a guy who demanded his team do whatever it took just to make the playoffs every year — will give Winger, Dawkins and company. The team has big decisions this summer with Kyle Kuzma as a free agent and Kristaps Porzingis expected to opt out.

• The Milwaukee Bucks finally made the hiring of Adrian Griffin as their head coach official.

“Adrian is a widely-respected coach and former player, who brings great leadership and experience to our team,” Bucks General Manager Jon Horst said in a statement. “His championship-level coaching pedigree, character, basketball acumen and ability to connect with and develop players make him the ideal choice to lead our team. He has earned this opportunity.”

Will Herro make his Finals debut for Heat in Game 3? Don’t be so sure.

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MIAMI — Game 3 has always been the target for a Tyler Herro return to the Heat.

Herro has been wearing bucket hats on the sidelines since his devastating hand injury against the Bucks, but he’s been working out with the team and going through practices for more than a week preparing for his return. Is it time for Herro to bring even more shooting and shot creation to the Heat’s rotation?

Don’t be so sure.

Eric Spoelstra said Tuesday Herro is day-to-day and “has not been cleared yet” to play, although he would go through a contact workout later in the day, after which decisions would be made. He added he is not Nostrodomous and doesn’t know if Herro will play in Game 3. (As a side note, Herro was not made available to the media to speak. League rules required injured players returning to the lineup to be available to the media, while players unavailable to play are not.)

On Monday, both Ros Gold-Onwude — the former WNBA player turned quality analyst for ESPN — and veteran Heat beat reporter Ira Winderman cautioned against expecting a Herro return.

If there is pain and swelling, can the Heat put him out there? This is the Finals, but this is also a 23-year-old under a long contract, and if there is a heightened risk of further injury Miami may need to protect the player from himself.

If Herro returns, expect him to come off the bench in a very limited role. It’s a huge ask to take someone who has not played in an NBA game since basically tax day (April 16 was his last game) and throw him into the highest level of basketball anywhere in the world. Spoelstra may give him a four- or five-minute run just as a test (maybe at the start of the second quarter, when Nikola Jokić sits) and see how things go.

On the surface, you can say Herro would be what the Heat need — a 20.1 point-a-game scorer this season with the best handles on the team, able to create his own shot or shoot over the top of the defense (37.8% from 3 this season). Dig a little deeper, however, and that fit is not as smooth in this series. On offense, he can be a ball-stopper at points against a Nuggets team the Heat want to keep in motion. The bigger concern is on defense, where he is a clear target (and because of that Spoelstra can’t play him with Duncan Robinson, even in the minutes Jokić sits). This might have been a tough series for a healthy Herro.

If he can play and come off the bench for short runs, he could boost the Heat offense this series.

Just don’t be so sure he’s ready to go.

 

Silver says NBA won’t mind if Wembanyama’s debut comes in Sacramento, not Las Vegas

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DENVER (AP) — Victor Wembanyama’s next couple of weeks are now set: He’ll be playing in the French league finals starting this weekend, and then the San Antonio Spurs will almost certainly make him the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft on June 22.

And if that means the French star’s summer league debut comes in Sacramento instead of Las Vegas in early July, the league is fine with that.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league doesn’t have a preference regarding the site of Wembanyama’s first game with the Spurs. While the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is the biggest – all 30 teams attend – and commands the most attention, there are smaller summer leagues that precede the Vegas event by a few days. Sacramento plays host to one of those events, and the Spurs are one of six teams headed there this year.

“All summer leagues are NBA Summer Leagues,” Silver told The Associated Press. “I’m very supportive of the Sacramento summer league. I remember when (Kings owner Vivek Ranadive) first came to the league and said this was something he wanted to do. I said, ‘As long as you have enough other teams who support it and players who want to play in it, it’s a good thing.’”

The Kings might be getting a lot more buzz than usual this summer. Not only are the Spurs headed there, but so is Charlotte – which holds the No. 2 pick. And it just so happens that the Spurs and Hornets will open Sacramento summer play against one another, potentially setting the stage for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup a few days before Vegas even starts.

If Wembanyama plays in Sacramento, he’d be the first No. 1 pick that didn’t debut in Las Vegas since Markelle Fultz for Philadelphia in 2017. The 76ers played in Utah’s summer league that year before going to Vegas.

Other recent No. 1 picks have opened in Las Vegas with big-crowd, big-spectacle atmospheres. Paolo Banchero’s debut in Vegas for Orlando last summer had John Wall and DeMar DeRozan sitting courtside, as was Jerry West – three guys who didn’t need to see the scalpers who were working outside the arena for hours before the game. Zion Williamson played only nine minutes in his debut in 2019, in a game that was stopped by an earthquake, and his debut got LeBron James and Anthony Davis to grab courtside seats.

The Spurs have not said whether Wembanyama will play in the Sacramento event, which starts on July 3, and almost certainly won’t address the topic until they actually draft him in a little over two weeks. Wembanyama is expected to be with the Spurs in Las Vegas as well; the league has already announced him as one of the participants for its inaugural NBA Con – which runs there from July 7-9 and will celebrate many aspects of basketball culture.

“What’s made the summer leagues so valuable are really the media rights more than the individuals who buy tickets there, because it’s a very affordable experience,” Silver said. “So, the answer is, I want Victor to get playing court experience and I think the team – assuming it’s San Antonio – should make decisions completely independent of any commercial implications from where he debuts.”

Wembanyama’s Boulogne-Levallois team beat his former team, ASVEL, 3-1 in a French league semifinal series that ended Sunday. Monaco, the top seed in the league, awaits Wembanyama’s team in the best-of-five final that starts Saturday and could go until June 20 – two days before the draft.

“So proud of my guys,” Wembanyama tweeted Sunday after the semifinal win. “Job ain’t done tho.”

Wembanyama said in October that he’s 7-foot-3; some still say he’s 7-foot-4 or 7-foot-5, and given that he’s only 19, it’s certainly possible that he had a bit of growing left in recent months. Either way, he’s a generational talent who’ll come into the NBA with enormous hype, the likes of which probably hasn’t been seen since James went No. 1 overall to Cleveland in 2003.

“What I try to advise players – and I’m not making a prediction that he will or won’t live up to the hype – is to control what you can control, and I think what you can control is doing the work,” Silver said. “If he is in San Antonio, it’s an organization that led the way in terms of international scouting and signing of international players. Certainly, everyone would acknowledge they know how to develop players and particularly big men. And so, if I were in his shoes, or if I’m advising him, I’m saying, ‘Quickly become part of that organization and be a sponge and listen to the advice.’”

Add Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Ingram to USA World Cup roster

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The Team USA roster heading Manilla for the World Cup this summer just gets deeper and more athletic.

Two more players have committed to playing: Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Pelicans scoring machine Brandon Ingram, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

We now have eight of the 12 players expected to represent the USA this summer:

Mikal Bridges
Jalen Brunson
Anthony Edwards
Tyrese Haliburton
Brandon Ingram
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Bobby Portis
Austin Reaves

Jackson Jr. brings rim-protecting defense plus the ability to space the floor needed by bigs in the international game. Ingram fits the style of scorer — from Kevin Durant back to Carmelo Anthony — that has always done well for Team USA in international competitions. Ingram averaged 24.7 points per game this season, but missed almost half the season due to a toe injury.

The World Cup takes place this summer in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, featuring 32 teams from around the world. The USA is in Group C with Greece (with, likely, Giannis Antetokounmpo), New Zealand and Jordan. The World Cup is the primary qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics, so advancing as deep as possible matters (if the USA wins its group it likely stays on the other side of the bracket from Spain and France, removing obstacles to a deep run).

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is in charge of Team USA, with his assistant coaches being Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Tyronn Lue (Clippers) and Mark Few (Gonzaga).

The USA will have a training camp in Las Vegas, where they play Puerto Rico in an exhibition before heading to Abu Dhabi and then on to the World Cup, where the USA will play all its games in Manilla.

The World Cup starts Aug. 25 and continues through Sept. 10.