Five Things To Watch: Utah Jazz

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Karl MaloneGenerations of fans know the Utah Jazz as a model of stability. They were raised on Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, coach Jerry Sloan and super significant owner Larry H. Miller, the rock of the franchise. Miller kept the team together, mended issues with coaches and players and even took financial risks to purchase the team.

When Miller died in 2009, the franchise slowly lost all the stability he imparted to it as the sole owner.

It truly fell apart in 2011, when All-NBA point guard Deron Williams and Sloan could no longer co-exist. Sloan resigned as coach, and Williams was traded for “the future.”

Under power-behind-the-throne GM Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz reached for marginal veterans in hope of maintaining the illusion of being a playoff team. Instead, mercenaries came to Salt Lake City, were rewarded with playing time they would not have received elsewhere, then left for greener pastures or larger paydays. There was a playoff berth in 2012, but that model was unsustainable.

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Sheridan: Al Jefferson to Spurs?

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The NBA trade deadline journalism racket is a tricky minefield to navigate. The business is driven by rumors, many of which are founded in truth, others of which are utterly fictitious.

Distinguishing between the two differentiates the good basketball Web sites from the bad sites.

But figuring out who is available is not rocket science if you speak to the right people, and I speak to a lot of plugged-in people on a regular basis.

Here is the latest they are telling me:

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SH Blog: Utah Jazz acquire new GM, former player Dan Roundfield died trying to save wife

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You know transactions in the NBA have drastically slowed down when Louis Amundson is the top free-agent interest of the day, with all due respect. Luckily, there are some other interesting news from around the league that you can find below, along with some sad news:

  • Dennis Lindsey is officially the new general manager of the Utah Jazz, according to Brian T. Smith. Here is a brief history on Lindsey: “Sixteen years after taking a pay cut just so he could trade the title of assistant men’s basketball coach at Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College for an NBA entry-level position, Lindsey was officially awarded a job Tuesday that instantly became a life-changer. Kevin O’Connor relinquished 13 years’ worth of responsibilities as the Jazz’s general manager, turning Utah’s day-to-day activities over to Lindsey. The well-respected and highly successful O’Connor will remain in his position as Utah’s executive vice president of basketball operations, pairing with Lindsey in the attempt to finally bring an NBA championship to Salt Lake City.”
  • Former player and all-star Dan Roundfield sadly passed away yesterday trying to save his wife, according to Michael Cunningham: “According to reports, Roundfield’s wife became distressed while swimming off of Baby Beach and Roundfield tried to assist her. The Aruba Herald reported that witnesses saw the woman return to shore but that Roundfield was taken out to sea. Authorities found Roundfield’s body under some rocks, the Herald reported. A police spokesman in Aruba told the Associated Press that Roundfield and his wife went beyond a protected reef area and got caught up in rough waters. The couple were vacationing at the Renaissance Resort.“It’s a real tragedy,” the spokesman, John Larmonie, told the AP. “He drowned saving his wife.”
  • Chris Tomasson has the update on the status of Louis Amundson and the list of teams that have interest: “A source close to free-agent forward Lou Amundson said Charlotte is looking at Amundson, and that it’s unlikely he would go to Greece. Panathinaikos has been mentioned as a possibility but the Amundson camp is wary about how Josh Childress’ game fell off after he went to play in Greece and returned to the NBA. The source said the New York Knicks are also looking at Amundson. However, the Knicks only can offer the minimum and Amundson is looking for a deal in the area of $3 million a season.”
  • Jessica Camerato talks about the teacher-student relationship that Ray Allen and Avery Bradley had: “Not surprising Avery Bradley gave Ray Allen credit for helping/teaching him. Here’s what Allen said about Bradley last season: “I think the biggest thing that he does that I’ve noticed is, he always seeks out my advice or attention … He’ll always come to me and ask me what I thought about it or how did I perceive it. When the game starts off, he’ll ask what do I see out there on the floor, what’s going on out there. You can tell he watches, he observes, he asks. Instead of formulating his own opinion, he gets opinions and then tries to determine how he feels about certain things. For me, that’s a very smart vantage point because he’s learning.”
  • Sam Presti believes players become better when they experience Olympics competition. Sam Amick has the story: “I think it’s really helpful for them to play under different circumstances; it only rounds them out as players and makes them better,” said Presti, who also saw Durant and Westbrook win gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. “What we observed from the World Championship was just the mental endurance that it takes to go through an international competition and the training camp that leads up to it in medal-round play just to get there. ”Just the level of mental endurance that Kevin and Russell have been exposed to and conditioned themselves to, I think has really helped us in our playoff series. That’s a real benefit. I think Serge’s experiences with the national team, again just being in different situations and adjusting to different styles of play, I only makes him a more well-rounded player. And James now is also getting that level of experience. I really feel like we’ve benefited from all of the exposures that the players have been given, and I think they’re all very grateful for the opportunity too. It’s fun to watch them in these situations.”
  • In the same article as the one above, Amick also had the story on how James Harden is “pretty 100 percent sure” that he will remain with the Thunder: ”I’m pretty, a hundred percent, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be in Oklahoma City,” Harden said with a slight stutter. “I’ll let my agent and Mr. Presti and [Thunder owner Clay] Bennett discuss all that, so I’ll let them handle that and stay out of it for right now and worry about the USA Olympics.” When asked if he was at all enamored with the idea of being a more featured player elsewhere, Harden said, “I love winning. We have some great guys over here, something special, something I don’t think any other team in the NBA has – young guys who got drafted basically together, year after year after year. We’ve got something special, so I’m focused on what we have and trying to win a championship with these guys.”
  • DeJuan Blair loves San Antonio, but the team may be looking to trade him, according to Douglas Farmer: “It’s tough, not even playing,” he said. “I kept my teammates into it, kept them going. Once I got my time, I used the best of my minutes. … Last year was last year, just like the year before was the year before. ”It’s all the same thing. I’m working really hard to not have the issues at the end of the year, keep my body right, get my shot and just be a pro.” Blair’s offseason improvements could land him a more prominent role somewhere other than San Antonio. He has one more year on his rookie contract, but indications are the Spurs are considering trading Blair after advancing to the Western Conference final without needing much from him.”
  • While in Australia, Andrew Bogut was repeatedly offered drugs. He discussed his disapproval of the situation, reported by Daryl Timms: “And Bogut, who missed the Olympics because of an ankle injury, says he has been regularly offered drugs in Melbourne nightclubs. He said the latest offer of cocaine was last week. ”The first thing the host asked me was do you want some coke,” he told SEN 116. ”I said there is no chance because I don’t do that stuff and I never have and I never will. But kids do get caught up with that.” Bogut said he probably didn’t agree with the AFL’s three-strike drug policy, hinting that players should not be given three chances before being suspended. ”Take your penalty and you’re gone for a little while,” he said.
  • Some funky things happened during the game between Team USA and Argentina. Here is Adrian Wojnarowski’s story on Carmelo Anthony being the victim of a cheap shot with intent: “The United States had turned a tight game into a blowout, and restraint no longer resonated within the Argentina guard’s mind when Anthony unleashed one more 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter. Searching for retribution, Campazzo found Anthony an easy target on the release of his statuesque jump shot. ”Because before, Chris Paul punched me,” Campazzo said. Anthony hit the floor hard, and Campazzo ultimately declared that he would be issuing no post-game apologies to him. After the 126-97 victory over Argentina, Kobe Bryant came over and told Campazzo that hitting ‘Melo with a low blow was a bad idea, never to be done. Said Bryant: “He said, ‘Yeah, I know. It was my fault. I understand.’ ” So Campazzo apologized to Anthony too? ”No,” he said. “Chris Paul didn’t apologize to me.”

Paul Pierce talks Ray Allen, Celtics


Bernucca: Thunder among teams with GM, coach decisions

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Right now, the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to figure out how to get three more wins over the Miami Heat and claim the NBA championship.

Whether they can do that remains to be seen. But once the Finals are over, the Thunder will have another issue on their hands – putting a coach in place for next season.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks does not have a contract for next season. And while a trip to the NBA Finals makes it seem as if his return is a foregone conclusion, we shouldn’t be so quick to save a slot for him on the sidelines.

Brooks certainly will want more money; the going rate for coaches who reach the Finals is between $4 million and $5 million per year. The Thunder have been highly cost-conscious under GM Sam Presti, who has extension decisions for James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor on the horizon.

And what if the Thunder open a 2-0 lead, then have a maturity meltdown mirroring the Mavericks in 2006 and lose the series? Will Presti be looking for a bigger name who can command more respect from his young roster?

Even if Presti decides to keep Brooks – the likely option – he still may have to fill his own staff as assistant GMs Rob Hennigan and Troy Weaver have been mentioned as candidates for vacancies elsewhere.

Oklahoma City isn’t the only team looking to fill front office positions. Lottery clubs Charlotte and Portland need a coach, and playoff squads Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers have holes to fill as well.

The draft is just over two weeks away. Free agency negotiation starts July 1. The Las Vegas Summer League begins July 13.

Here’s a look at who needs what:

THE CLIPPERS NEED A GM: They made a quantum leap from lottery laughingstock to the conference semifinals under the stewardship of GM Neil Olshey, who quickly shifted gears from rebuilding with youth to popping for a star when Chris Paul became available. Then owner Donald Sterling lowballed him, and Olshey – after initially agreeing to stay – fled for Portland.

Right now, the list of candidates is a long one. According to the Los Angeles Times, it includes former NBA GM Kiki Vandeweghe, Pacers GM David Morway, former Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester, Pistons assistant GM Scott Perry, former Wolves GM Tony Ronzone, Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk and Clippers player personnel director Gary Sacks. It’s hard to believe neither Thunder candidate is on the list.

Whomever Andy Roeser hires will be in a tough spot. In addition to a handful of free agents, Blake Griffin is due for an extension, Paul can become a free agent next summer and coach Vinny Del Negro was retained on a one-year deal. All three are intertwined, and if the new hire is unable to placate the superstar duo, the Clippers’ status as a playoff team on the rise will be short-lived.

THE TRAIL BLAZERS NEED A COACH: This isn’t truly a vacancy and is not the first order of
business for Olshey, who has said he will hire a coach after the draft in which he has two lottery picks Stan Van Gundy with handsthat could make the job more appealing. However, he also risks losing his desired candidate to the openings in Orlando and Charlotte.

There has been some speculation that Paul Allen’s millions and a West Coast location could lure Phil Jackson out of retirement to the City of Roses. Keep in mind that Olshey and interim coach Kaleb Canales have the same agent, which may limit how much of a legitimate search is actually conducted.

In mopping up for Nate McMillan, Kanales went 8-15, which gives him a grand total of 23 more games experience than Warriors assistant Michael Malone, who would be a much better hire. A good veteran choice would be Stan Van Gundy, who did a terrific job elevating the Magic.

THE BOBCATS NEED A COACH: This is a huge decision for owner Michael Jordan, who has the cloud of “worst team ever” hanging over his head and needs to show dramatic improvement in his personnel hires both on the court and off. He made a good one with GM Rich Cho; now he has to start listening to the people around him, who simply are better basketball minds than him.

Cho and Bobcats executive (and longtime Jordan crony) Rod Higgins reportedly already have conducted interviews with Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, Lakers assistant Quin Snyder and former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who is without a doubt the best available coaching hire on the market not named Phil Jackson. Each is expected to sit with Jordan in the next week. With all due respect to Shaw and Snyder, Jordan should pony up for Sloan, who would provide an infusion of urgency in a frighteningly young roster with his no-nonsense approach to preparation and execution.

THE MAGIC NEED A GM … AND A COACH: Magic CEO Alex Martins topped Orlando Magazine‘s list of “50 Most Powerful People in Orlando.” We’ll see if any influence comes with that power. He was able to convince Dwight Howard to opt in in for next season and then fired GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy, which means (a) Howard actually is more powerful than Martins or (b) Martins plans on directing his GM hire to trade Howard, which he apparently wants anyway.

Any incoming GM is going to want to hire his own coach. According to Yahoo!, Martins’ search is down to three candidates – a pair of hot commodities in Hennigan and Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey along with former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Martins has said he wants the new GM in place before the draft. While the NBA trend of late has been to go young with sabremetrics wonks as GM hires, Bower did show the ability to upgrade the Hornets with limited flexibility, which is where the Magic are until they trade Howard.

Jerry Sloan Deron Willians JazzOnce a GM is hired, coaching candidates include Shaw, Malone, Sloan, former Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Doc Rivers, an extreme long shot given that he has four years remaining on his deal with the Celtics and would cost a heap of cash and draft picks. If Martins actually has the power to keep Howard in town, there is no doubt he will have a huge say in the team’s next coach.

THE PACERS WANT A NEW GM: Given the team’s success this season, this came as somewhat of a surprise. But the truth of the matter is that Pacers president Larry Bird makes the personnel decisions, plans on coming back for the 2012-13 season and has had some friction with Morway, who interviewed for the Portland GM job.

Last week, the Indianapolis Star reported that Bird would like to replace Morway as GM with director of player personnel Kevin Pritchard, who did a remarkable job from transforming the “Jail Blazers” into a 50-win team with smart wheeling and dealing on consecutive draft days before being unceremoniously unloaded one hour before the 2010 draft. As a former NBA teammate, he has Bird’s ear more than does Morway.

THE 76ERS MAY NEED A NEW GM … ALTHOUGH NOT RIGHT AWAY: It seems strange that the Sixers are interviewing candidates to replace president Rod Thorn after their unlikely run to Game 7 of the conference semifinals. But according to the Philadelphia Daily News, Thorn, 71, has an unusual contract calling for three years as president followed by five years as consultant, with the option to move into the latter role earlier.

Thorn actually has a hand in picking his successor, which could come as early as this summer – or as late as next summer. Candidates include Lindsey, Weaver, Bower, Hawks GM Rick Sund, Bucks GM John Hammond and Spurs VP Danny Ferry, who did a solid job of building the Cavaliers into a Finals team around LeBron James and reportedly is considered the frontrunner. A stumbling block may be how much input a new GM may have to give to coach Doug Collins.

THE HAWKS MAY NEED A GM: As stated above, Sund is a possible candidate in Philly because his deal with the Hawks ends later this month. The team denied him permission to speak with the Blazers and sent him to pre-draft camps but still hasn’t re-signed him, even though coach Larry Drew had his option picked up.

Sund is said to be considering a reduced role in a partial retirement. Whether it is Sund or someone else making the decisions, the Hawks are at a crossroads with a bloated payroll that’s good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to truly contend for a title.

Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.