The Evening News: D’Antoni plans to hire defensive assistant; Lillard to receive tutoring from Gary Payton; Sloan wants to return

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Hello and welcome to the Evening News.

As the playoffs continue, we’ll keep you updated every evening. What’s happening today?

Here’s the latest news from around the league:

D’Antoni plans to hire defensive assistant

CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reports that Mike D’Antoni plans to hire a defensive assistant this offseason. D’Antoni, known as an offensive genius, is open to the possibility of working alongside a bright defensive mind. The Lakers were among the worst teams in the league in transition defense and defensive efficiency.

D’Antoni’s top choice for the position is presumably Nate McMillan. D’Antoni and McMillan made up the offensive and defensive brain trusts for Mike Krzyzewski for the USA’s 2008 and 2012 gold medal teams.

However, because McMillan will probably be offered a head coaching job somewhere else, one name to look out for the Lakers is Alvin Gentry. Gentry was D’Antoni’s assistant in Phoenix for several seasons and many sources expect D’Antoni to offer Gentry a job to return to his staff.

Lillard plans to learn defense from Gary Payton over the summer

After winning the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard told the media that he was aware of their criticisms about his defensive efforts and says he plans to work hard to improve on that end over the summer. Damian Lillard

“When people say stuff about my defense, it bothers me,’’ Lillard said. “And I’m aware of it. It drives me. It lights a fire under me.’’

According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Lillard will receive some defensive advice from a Hall of Famer.

Gary Payton reached out to the rookie following a 37-point explosion against Golden State earlier in the season. Payton won the 1995-1996 Defensive Player of the Year award and was nicknamed “The Glove” for his ability to shut down opponents on defense. To many experts, Payton was the most effective defender against Michael Jordan in NBA history.

For Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, the Lillard-Payton pairing is a match made in heaven, “The more time Dame spends with Gary this offseason, the more I know Dame will respect that he has to give an incredible effort on the defensive end,’’ Olshey said. “Because if Gary is going to invest time in him talking about defense, Damian is the type of kid who will feel like he has to deliver.’’

Jerry Sloan open to coaching small market team 

Gery Woefel of the Journal Times reported Thursday that Jerry Sloan is very open to the possibility of  returning to the sidelines for an NBA team next season. 

According to Woefel, Sloan wants to return but would prefer to coach in a smaller market like he did in Utah for 23 seasons, ”I talked to a couple of friends of Jerry Sloan’s within the past couple of days, he definitely wants to return to coaching, and the other interesting facet is that he wants to coach in the small markets, one similar to Utah, so I think Milwaukee qualifies as that kind of environment.”

Last year, Sloan was considered a candidate for the Bobcats and Blazers but ultimately withdrew his name from the running for both those teams.

Sloan confirmed to Fox Sports Florida that he is open to the possibility of returning to the NBA, “Yeah, probably, if I thought it would be the right situation.”

Sloan is 70-years-old and would likely want to join a team where he could compete right away.

Sloan is 1221-803 in 26 seasons as a head coach between Chicago (1979-82) and Utah (1988-2011). He is one of only four coaches in NBA history to post 15 consecutive winning seasons. He led the Jazz to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.

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