Vlade Divac steps down as Sacramento Kings GM; Joe Dumars named interim replacement

The Sacramento Kings announced today that Vlade Divac has stepped down as General Manager. In the interim, Joe Dumars has been named Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and will immediately assume General Manager duties.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is the best path ahead as we work to build a winning team that our loyal fans deserve,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “We are thankful for Vlade’s leadership, commitment and hard work both on and off the court. He will always be a part of our Kings family.”

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the General Manager for the Kings,” said Vlade Divac. “I want to thank Vivek for the opportunity and recognize all of the incredible colleagues who I had the great pleasure of working with during my tenure. Sacramento and the Kings will always hold a special place in my heart and I wish them all the best moving forward.”

The team will work with Dumars to develop a long-term strategy for the organization’s basketball operations structure, to include a search for a permanent General Manager. No further personnel decisions will be made until a new General Manager is in place.

“Joe has become a trusted and valued advisor since joining the team last year, and I am grateful to have him take on this role at an important time for the franchise,” said Ranadivé.

In June 2019, Dumars was named Special Advisor to the General Manager and has over 30 years of NBA experience both as a player and front office executive in addition to an extensive executive business background.

Raptors beat Nuggets as starters focus on rest

The regular season “seeding play” portion of the NBA restart is wrapping up, with the playoffs starting Monday. Here’s the Denver Post on today’s Nuggets game:

For seeding purposes, Friday’s game between the Nuggets and Raptors was meaningless, and both teams would treat it as such. The Nuggets’ playoff quest begins Monday vs. Utah, and they would do nothing to jeopardize the availability of the team’s regulars.

On the bus ride to the arena, Denver’s coaching staff got word Toronto planned to rest several of its starters, including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. The Nuggets acted accordingly, limiting starters Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to just 10 minutes each.

The Raptors hung on against most of Denver’s reserves, winning the final game of the regular season, 117-109. The Nuggets finished the regular season 46-27, content to cede minutes to reserves Monte Morris, P.J. Dozier and Troy Daniels.

In the win for the Raptors, Stanley Johnson came off the bench to put up 23 points, four rebounds and six assists, while Paul Watson, also off the bench, had 22 points and six rebounds.

In the loss for the Nuggets, PJ Dozier off the bench had 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

Grizzlies to play the Trail Blazers in NBA play-in round

The Memphis Grizzlies have clinched the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference and will face the No. 8 seed Portland Trail Blazers in a play-in round that will tip-off on Saturday, August 15 at 1:30 p.m. (all times Central) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on ABC.

Under the NBA’s play-in format, the No. 8 seed would need to win one of two games against the No. 9 seed to advance to the 2020 Western Conference Playoffs. The No. 9 seed would need to defeat the No. 8 seed twice. A second play-in game, if necessary, would be played Sunday, Aug. 16 at 3:30 p.m. and would be televised on ESPN.

The winner of the play-in round would face the No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2020 Western Conference Playoffs.

Eric Hasseltine will call play-by-play action for each play-in game on the team’s flagship radio station 92.9 FM ESPN alongside analyst Elliot Perry with all radio broadcasts presented by Sonic Drive-In. Grind City Media’s Jessica Benson will host the pregame, halftime and postgame shows. Play-in games also will be available on the Grizzlies’ Regional Radio Network.

Chicago Bulls fire head coach Jim Boylen

Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas announced today that head coach Jim Boylen has been fired.

MICHAEL REINSDORF: “No one could question Jim’s passion for our team and our organization. We sincerely appreciate his tireless efforts and contributions during his time with the Bulls, and we wish him and his family the very best.”

ARTURAS KARISOVAS: “After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary. This was a very difficult decision, but it is time for our franchise to take that next step as we move in a new direction and era of Chicago Bulls basketball. Jim is a great human being that cares deeply about this organization and the game of basketball. I want to thank him for his professionalism and commitment to the franchise.”

Boylen first came to Chicago as an associate head coach during the 2015-16 season and was named the team’s 23rd head coach on December 3, 2018. During his time at the helm of the Bulls, he compiled an overall record of 39-84 (.317).

A formal coaching search will begin immediately.

In G League news, Salt Lake City Stars hiring Nathan Peavy as new coach

The Salt Lake City Stars, the official NBA G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz, have finalized an agreement for Nathan Peavy to become the team’s new head coach, it was announced today. Peavy, a three-year assistant coach of the Stars, becomes the Stars’ third head coach since the team relocated to Salt Lake City in 2016.

Peavy, 35, began his coaching career in the 2017-18 season as an assistant under Martin Schiller, the 2019-20 NBA G League Coach of the Year. As a member of Schiller’s staff, Peavy helped guide the Stars to two playoff berths and an improved winning percentage each season. He aided in the development of current Jazz players Tony Bradley, Jarrell Brantley, Juwan Morgan, Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale, Miye Oni, Rayjon Tucker, Nigel Williams-Goss and Justin Wright-Foreman while they appeared in games with the NBA G League franchise. Three players have earned GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA during Peavy’s tenure with the team.

The Stars finished the 2019-20 season atop the Western Conference with a 30-12 (.714) record, amassing the most wins in a single season in Salt Lake City team history. The club also won the first-ever MGM Resorts NBA G League Winter Showcase Tournament last December in the midst of a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the NBA G League last season and tied for second-longest in a single season in league history. Peavy served as acting head coach in the team’s 134-128 victory over the South Bay Lakers at Vivint Arena on March 2.

Prior to beginning his coaching career, Peavy played internationally for eight seasons in both Germany and Puerto Rico, including a stint as a member of the Puerto Rican National Team.

“Nathan has grown tremendously over the past three years due to his work ethic and devotion to his craft. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his playing career and has a passion for teaching the game,” said Bart Taylor, director of scouting for the Utah Jazz and vice president of basketball operations for the Stars. “He has been a pivotal part of establishing a solid foundation for the organization and is absolutely the right person to be the next leader of the team as we move forward.”

“I’m honored to be named the new head coach of the Salt Lake City Stars,” said Peavy. “I’m looking forward to building on the momentum we’ve created to help the Stars compete at the highest level on the court while continuing to help develop players and staff members for the Jazz, and to have a positive impact in our community. I’m grateful for the opportunity and eager to get started on preparations for the 2020-21 season.”

Celtics sign head coach Brad Stevens to contract extension

The Boston Celtics have signed head coach Brad Stevens to a contract extension.

Per the Boston Globe, “Stevens signed a six-year, $22 million deal with Boston in July 2013, and in 2016 signed a three-year extension that was set to expire following the 2020-21 season. Terms of the latest extension were not disclosed.”

Stevens, who was named the franchise’s 17th head coach on July 3, 2013, has produced a 318-245 win-loss record (.565) in six-plus seasons with the Celtics. His 318 wins are the fourth-most by any Celtics coach in franchise history (795-Auerbach, 427-Heinsohn, 416-Rivers).

“Brad is an accomplished coach and an outstanding person,” said Boston Celtics Lead Owner and Governor Wyc Grousbeck. “We are proud to have him lead our team forward in our quest for Banner 18.”

“We are thrilled that Brad Stevens will continue to be our coach,” said Boston Celtics Co-Owner Steve Pagliuca. “He has become one of the best coaches in the NBA, and is a real leader on and off the court. This is a great day for the Boston Celtics.”

“Brad is one of the most intelligent and hard-working coaches in the game today,” said Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. “More importantly, his character and integrity have contributed to a culture that we all highly value here. Brad is a great teammate, and a leader people want to follow. We are honored to have him with us as we continue to pursue our next championship.”

With Stevens at the helm, the Celtics are poised for their sixth consecutive playoff appearance in 2019-20, marking the franchise’s longest such streak since doing so from 2007-08 to 2012-13. Stevens helped guide the Celtics to back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 and 2017-18, marking the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons that the organization has reached the Conference Finals in consecutive seasons.

Stevens, 43, has been named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month three times in his seven seasons with the Celtics, making him one of two coaches to earn three such honors with the franchise. The Zionsville, Indiana native also served as the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, Louisiana, to become the seventh coach in franchise history to hold such a role (Auerbach, Fitch, Ford, Heinsohn, Jones, Rivers).

Currently in his seventh campaign with the Celtics, Stevens has notched multiple milestones during the 2019-20 season. He became just the fifth coach in franchise history to reach the 300-win mark with a victory at Orlando on January 24, and surpassed K.C. Jones (308 wins) for the fourth-most wins on the franchise ledger with a victory at Minnesota on February 21.

Pacers agree to contract extension with head coach Nate McMillan

The Indiana Pacers have agreed to a contract extension with Head Coach Nate McMillan.

McMillan is currently in his fourth season as head coach after taking over the position in May 2016. He has compiled a 181-136 record with Indiana, and with the team’s next victory, will pass Rick Carlisle into third place in NBA franchise history for the most wins as head coach. Currently holding a record of 43-28 this season, the Pacers will appear in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season under McMillan’s leadership.

“What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner.’’

Per the Indianapolis Star, “McMillan didn’t have Victor Oladipo until Jan. 29 as he recovered from right knee surgery and he’s still not 100%, lost his replacement, Jeremy Lamb, soon after to season-ending left leg injuries and top free-agent signing Malcolm Brogdon has been lost to various injuries that have cost him 18 games.”

Previously, McMillan served as Associate Head Coach of the Pacers from 2013-16 and helped guide the Pacers to two playoff appearances, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013-14. He has served as head coach for 16 NBA seasons for the Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics, and currently ranks 22nd in NBA history for most head coaching victories (659-588).

More from The Star: “The Pacers are 43-28 and 5th in the conference. Last season, without Oladipo for half of it, they won 48 games before being swept in the first round. The previous season, the Pacers gave the Cleveland Cavaliers their toughest postseason test before losing in 7 to the eventual East champion with LeBron James.”

“I’d like to thank the Simon family, Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers organization for extending my contract during this unprecedented time in our country,” said McMillan. “I’m happy to have this opportunity and look forward to coaching this Pacers team into the future.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended one game by NBA for headbutting Moritz Wagner

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended one game without pay for headbutting Washington Wizards center Moritz Wagner during a stoppage in play, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Antetokounmpo was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected, occurred with 8:50 remaining in the second quarter of the Bucks’ 126-113 win over the Wizards on Aug. 11 at Visa Athletic Center on the campus of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando.

Antetokounmpo will serve his suspension Thursday when Milwaukee faces the Memphis Grizzlies at Visa Athletic Center.

Rockets guard Russell Westbrook day-to-day with muscle strain in leg

Per Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, star guard Russell Westbrook underwent an MRI in Orlando for a quadriceps injury. The results revealed a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg.

Westbrook will be out for Friday’s game against Philadelphia and his status will be re-evaluated before the playoffs start next week.

The league restarted play in late July at Disney Wide World of Sports in Florida. The Rockets (44-26), currently 4th in the Western conference, are one of the 22 teams included in the restart.

Westbrook this season is averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game, shooting 47.2% FG and 25.8% 3FG.

Knicks hire Kenny Payne as assistant coach

The New York Knicks have hired Kenny Payne as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff.

“I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills,” said Tom Thibodeau, head coach, New York Knicks. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”

“I want to thank John Calipari, Eli Capilouto (President, University of Kentucky), Mitch Barnhart (Athletics Director) and the University of Kentucky for allowing me to be a part of a special program for the last 10 years that truly epitomizes winning basketball. I am a better coach and leader of young men today because of my time in Lexington under the legendary Coach Cal,” said Kenny Payne, assistant coach, New York Knicks. “I now take the next step in my basketball journey and fulfill my dream of coaching in the NBA. I’m beyond grateful and excited for the chance to work for such a prestigious organization as the New York Knicks under the leadership of Leon Rose, Scott Perry, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau, who I have such great admiration and respect for.”

Per the New York Post, “the 53-year-old also has longstanding relationships with not only Knicks president Leon Rose, but senior vice president William Wesley. Rose had been Calipari’s agent at CAA, where Wesley also worked. And Payne’s ties with “World Wide Wes” stretch back decades, all the way to his days playing for Louisville.”

Payne, 53, has extensive college coaching experience having served as an assistant coach since 2004 with Oregon and Kentucky. He recently completed his 10th season as assistant coach at the University of Kentucky (2010-20) on coach John Calipari’s staff. In May 2014, Payne was promoted to associate head coach of the Wildcats. Payne’s lasting impact on Kentucky’s basketball history includes advancing to the Final Four four times, including winning the 2012 National Championship. In 2015, Payne helped lead the Wildcats to the first 38-0 record in college basketball history. Payne also played a major role in the recruiting and development of players at Kentucky. In each of his 10 years in Lexington, he was instrumental in securing a top-three recruiting class, six of which were No. 1 in the country. The 2013 class consisted of a record six McDonald’s All Americans and the 2017 class was rated as the best ever by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Since Payne’s arrival, Kentucky has had a player selected in the NBA Draft lottery and had multiple players picked in the first round in every year of his service.

Prior to Kentucky, Payne served as an assistant coach with the University of Oregon for five seasons (2004-09). During his time in Eugene, the Ducks qualified for two NCAA Tournaments (2007-08) including an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2007. In the 2006-07 season, he also helped lead Oregon to a Pacific-10 Tournament title.

As a player, the Laurel, MS-native was originally selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1989 NBA Draft. Over four seasons (1989-93), Payne held career averages of 3.5 points and 1.2 rebounds over 8.1 minutes in 144 games (13 starts). After his time in the NBA, Payne played one season (1993-94) in the Continental Basketball Association. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds over 55 games for the Tri-City Chinook. He spent time playing professionally overseas in Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Cyprus, China, Argentina and Australia. A four-year player at the University of Louisville (1985-89), he was a member of the 1986 NCAA national championship team.