The Denver Nuggets finished 33-49 this season. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson wasn’t a big part of the team this season, and his best days are behind him. Here’s the Denver Post blog with insight on next season:

Jameer Nelson hopes for increased role on Nuggets

Jameer Nelson is back in Philadelphia, spending time with his family and doing more than a little bit of thinking about his future with the Nuggets.

“We’ll see how things go,” he said. “We all have decisions to make.”

Nelson’s preference is to return to the Nuggets next season. Not only just return, but get back to playing a big role on the court. He’s got two years left on the three-year, $13.5 million deal he signed with the team last summer. But he played a total of just seven minutes in the Nuggets’ last 24 games of the season as D.J. Augustin took over the primary reserve point guard role. Nelson doesn’t want a repeat of that next season.

If it appears that a drop off in playing time is in store again, Nelson wouldn’t be apprehensive at all to authorize his agent to request he be traded. His first choice, however, is to return to the Nuggets with his role restored.

CJ McCollum wins 2015-2016 NBA Most Improved Player award

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who more than tripled his scoring average from the previous season, is the winner of the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player Award, the NBA announced today. The 6-4 guard joins Kevin Duckworth (1987-88) and Zach Randolph (2003-04) as the only Trail Blazers to earn the award, which is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons.

McCollum received 101 first-place votes and 559 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets (seven first-place votes, 166 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks (four first-place votes, 99 points) finished second and third, respectively. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

McCollum averaged a career-high 20.8 points (18th in the NBA) in his third season since being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 10th pick of NBA Draft 2013 presented by State Farm. He raised his scoring average by 14 points from last season’s 6.8, the largest increase (minimum 40 games each season) since Tony Campbell improved by 17 points from 1988-89 (6.2) to 1989-90 (23.2). McCollum established career highs in field goal percentage (44.8), three-point field goal percentage (41.7, eighth in the NBA), assists (4.3 apg) and rebounds (3.2 rpg), helping Portland make the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Last season, McCollum appeared in 62 games (three starts) and averaged 15.7 minutes. He scored in double figures 18 times and reached the 20-point mark three times. This season, as one of four new starters for Portland, McCollum hit double figures in 79 of his 80 games, scored at least 20 points in 40 games and notched eight 30-point games. McCollum ranked ninth in the NBA with 197 three-pointers made, and he teamed with Damian Lillard to form the league’s third-highest scoring duo (45.9 ppg).

Kurt Rambis was the New York Knicks’ interim head coach this past season. David Blatt was in charge of the Cavaliers, before the team decided to part ways and go with Tyronn Lue. Those two coaches are reportedly favorites to lead the Knicks next season, per ESPN.com:

Knicks coaching candidates include Kurt Rambis, David Blatt

The New York Knicks’ coaching search remains focused, for now, on interim head coach Kurt Rambis and former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, league sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Team president Phil Jackson loosely discussed the Knicks’ head-coaching vacancy with Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton last week, but sources say that the Knicks, at this point, are not seriously considering anyone beyond Rambis or Blatt.

Jackson and the Knicks did not reach out to ex-Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to discuss the club’s vacancy before Thibodeau agreed to accept the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offer to become coach and team president on Wednesday, sources said.

Jonas Jerebko buys house from Ben Gordon

Here’s Realtor.com with an update on the sale of a house that is apparently cool enough for pro ballers to buy from other pro ballers:

Jonas Jerebko buys house from Ben Gordon

Former Piston Ben Gordon‘s baller Detroit-area mansion is staying in the family. Current Celtics forward (and Gordon’s former Pistons teammate) Jonas Jerebko has purchased the massive six-bedroom home complete with an indoor gymnasium and three-section pool with a fountain for $2.2 million.

Jerebko (pictured above) was traded from the Pistons to the Celtics more than a year ago, but the Swedish star is keeping his roots in Michigan—and getting a great deal in the process.

Gordon’s home was originally listed at $4,189,000 in 2014, which means Jerebko waited in the weeds for a couple of years and saved almost $2 million from the mansion’s peak price.

Look. The NBA playoffs are very competitive, but there’s still an occasional opportunity for players to give helpful advice to guys on other teams. The latest generocity comes from Charlie Villanueva, who offers a useful tip to Russell Westbrook. Via ESPN.com:

Charlie Villanueva suggests Russell Westbrook take his dancing to a club

Charlie Villanueva has a simple request for Russell Westbrook: Find somewhere else to dance.

The Dallas Mavericks reserve forward and Oklahoma City Thunder superstar guard had a minor confrontation before Monday’s Game 2, after Villanueva stepped between Westbrook and rookie guard Cameron Payne during their normal pregame dance routine in front of the scorer’s table at midcourt.

Villanueva, who was shoved by Westbrook but didn’t push back, weighed in Tuesday after video of the incident went viral.

“If you want to go dancing and stuff like that, go to a nightclub,” Villanueva said on a Fox Pro Cast video he filmed.

The Grizzlies are without several of their best players, and in big trouble in their first-round NBA playoff series against the mighty Spurs. Here’s the Memphis Commercial Appeal reporting:

Matt Barnes says Grizzlies need to change gameplan

After the Grizzlies scored their fewest points in the postseason during their 94-68 Game 2 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, journeyman forward Matt Barnes had a suggestion or two or 10.

“We’ve got to roll the dice a little bit. We’ve got to play small, play fast. We’re coming to a gunfight with some spoons,” Barnes said. “We’ve got to do something to try to switch this up at home next game. It’s very frustrating.”

Memphis is 0-16 all-time when scoring 86 points or less in the postseason. San Antonio is responsible for six of those losses.

“You can credit their defense a little bit,” Barnes said, “but you’ve got to put the onus on us to make shots.”

Indeed.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is the winner of the 2015-16 NBA Sixth Man Award for his contributions in a reserve role, the NBA announced today. He becomes the first player to earn the honor three times. The 36-year-old Crawford also breaks his own record, set two years ago, as the oldest winner.

Crawford amassed 51 first-place votes and 341 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. The Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala finished second with 288 points (33 first-place votes), and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Enes Kanter was third with 182 points (19 first-place votes).

Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. To be eligible for the award, players had to have come off the bench in more games than they started.

Crawford came off the bench in 74 of his 79 appearances and averaged 14.2 points and 2.3 assists in 26.9 minutes in all games, helping the Clippers (53-29) post their fourth straight 50-win season. He recorded 33 games with 15 or more points off the bench, third most in the NBA behind the Denver Nuggets’ Will Barton (38) and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson (36). As a starter, Crawford scored at least 30 points in four of five games. Crawford also ranked second in the NBA in free throw percentage (90.4).

A 16-year veteran, Crawford previously won the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award in 2009-2010 with the Atlanta Hawks and in 2013-14 with the Clippers. When Crawford was honored for the first time as a Clipper, he joined Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf as the only two-time winners. Crawford is the only player to win the award with multiple teams.

Suns keep Earl Watson as head coach

Suns keep Earl Watson as head coach

The Phoenix Suns have reached an agreement with interim head coach Earl Watson to retain him as the 17th head coach in franchise history.

“Earl did a very good job with our team last season after taking over as interim head coach during a challenging time for the organization,” said McDonough. “Earl’s natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with and motivate our players have stood out throughout his time here in Phoenix. We are excited to see what he can do with a healthy roster after having a full offseason to prepare.”

First named interim head coach on Feb. 1, Watson compiled a 9-24 in 33 games after taking the reins, including wins in three of the team’s final four games by averaging 115.0 points over those final four contests. The Suns ranked second in the NBA in rebounds per game after Watson took control and were one of the league’s most improved defensive teams over the season’s final month, allowing 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions in the team’s final 16 games than in their first 66.

Watson originally joined the Suns as an assistant coach in the summer of 2015 after working the 2014-15 season as an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League. Watson became a coach following a 13-year NBA career as a point guard in which he appeared in 878 career games with Seattle/Oklahoma City, Memphis, Denver, Indiana, Utah and Portland from 2001-2014. Watson averaged 6.4 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steals for his career, posting highs of 10.7 points and 6.8 assists with the SuperSonics in 2007-08. At 36 years old, Watson is currently the youngest head coach in the NBA.

The Trail Blazers need all the help they can get against a tough first round opponent in the Clippers. Portland is down 1-0 in the series, which is no big deal, but they got smoked in Game 1 and need to look like a completely different squad in Game 2. Per CSNNW:

Chris Kaman may play increased playoff role for Blazers

When Chris Kaman entered Sunday night’s Game 1 of the playoff series between the Trail Blazers and Clippers for the first time, there was 9:01 left and Portland trailed by 18 points. When Kaman scored on a driving layup less than a minute later, the question you had to ponder was simply, “Where has this guy been?” Not just in this game, but all season? Where, exactly, has he been? Last season, Kaman was a key reserve for Portland, averaging six and a half rebounds and eight and a half points in 74 games. This season, Kaman appeared in just 16 regular-season games. Where has this man been?

Nets hire Kenny Atkinson as head coach

The Brooklyn Nets yesterday (Sunday) announced that they have hired Kenny Atkinson as their new head coach. Atkinson will become the 21st head coach in the franchise’s NBA history.

“We are thrilled to announce Kenny Atkinson as our new head coach and to welcome him and his family to Brooklyn,” said Nets General Manager Sean Marks. “Kenny’s years of NBA coaching experience working under successful head coaches such as Mike Budenholzer and Mike D’Antoni have provided him with the foundation and experience we were looking for in a head coach. We believe that Kenny’s core principles, leadership, communication skills and exceptional background in player development make him an ideal fit for the culture we are building in Brooklyn.”

Atkinson currently serves as an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks and will continue in this capacity until the conclusion of Atlanta’s postseason. With respect to the Hawks and their playoff schedule, a press conference to formally introduce Atkinson will be held on a date that has yet to be determined.

“I’d like to extend a personal welcome to Kenny and wish all of us success as we begin a new era at the Brooklyn Nets,” said Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “Aside from his tremendous skills and experience, he has the mindset we need to build a winning team day by day, step by step. Together, we can do great things.”

Atkinson joins the Nets after spending the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks under Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. The Hawks made playoff appearances in each of Atkinson’s four seasons, including the club’s first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The 2014-15 Hawks registered a franchise-record 60 wins, including a franchise-best 19-game win streak, and captured their first division title in more than 20 years. Atkinson served on the 2015 Eastern Conference All-Star coaching staff, and he guided Team World in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend in New York. Prior to his tenure with the Hawks, Atkinson was an assistant coach for four seasons with the New York Knicks (2008-12), helping the team reach the postseason in 2011 and 2012. Atkinson also spent one season as the Director of Player Development for the Houston Rockets (2007-08).

“I am truly honored and humbled to be named the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, and I would like to thank Nets’ ownership and management for this tremendous opportunity,” said Atkinson. “Together with Sean and his staff, we look forward to building a winning tradition here in Brooklyn. I also want to acknowledge and thank Mike Budenholzer and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for their cooperation and support throughout this process. While I am eager to begin working with the Nets, I remain committed to my coaching responsibilities with the Hawks for the remainder of the postseason.”

The San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who helped the team finish with the NBA’s top defense this season, is the recipient of the 2015-16 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NBA announced today. Leonard, a 6-7 forward, becomes the first non-center to earn the honor in back-to-back seasons since Dennis Rodman in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

Leonard received 84 first-place votes and 547 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. He edged the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green, who tallied 44 first-place votes and 421 points to finish as runner-up for the second season in a row. The Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside was third with 83 points (two first-place votes). Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

A first-time NBA All-Star this season, Leonard contributed to a San Antonio defense that led the NBA in points allowed (92.9 ppg) and defensive rating (96.6 points per 100 possessions). The Spurs, a franchise-record 67-15 this season, were even stingier on defense with Leonard in the game: According to NBA.com/Stats, they had a defensive rating of 94.9 when the five-year veteran was on the court and 99.2 when he wasn’t – a difference of 4.3 points per 100 possessions. Leonard also averaged 1.78 steals (12th in the NBA), 5.5 defensive rebounds and a career-high 0.99 blocks to go with career highs on offense of 21.2 points and 2.6 assists.

The NBA Development League has named Brad Walker the head of its basketball operations group effective May 4, league President Malcolm Turner announced today. Walker will report to Turner and oversee all basketball operations for the NBA D-League and its 22 teams.

Walker joins the NBA family from the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), where he has worked since 2007, most recently as the Associate Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. He served as the Interim Commissioner from September-May 2009. In his role, Walker oversaw the day-to-day operations of the OVC, including finances, scheduling, and serving as liaison to officiating coordinators, coaching groups and broadcast partners while acting as the director of the OVC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Brad to the NBA D-League and am excited for him to lead our basketball operations efforts during this important time of expansion and growth,” said Turner. “His experience across all facets of athletic administration coupled with his knowledge of and passion for basketball make him the perfect fit for the NBA’s official minor league and the role it plays to develop talent and create value throughout the NBA system.”

“Joining the NBA family to head up Development League basketball operations is a professional dream come true,” said Walker. “I’m eager to bring my experience from the collegiate level to the professional ranks and will work to continue to improve the already exceptional talent in the NBA D-League.”

A longtime collegiate athletics administrator, Walker spent five years at the West Coast Conference (WCC), beginning as the Director of Communications and elevating to Associate Commissioner prior to joining the OVC. During his tenure at the WCC, Walker was responsible for coordinating athletic marketing efforts as well as negotiating the Conference’s television contract, a five-year agreement with ESPN. He began his career in media relations, working in Sports Information at Holy Cross College and the Mid-Continent Conference before transitioning to administration.

A graduate of Bentley University with a degree in Marketing, Walker was a four-year student athlete, captaining the basketball team during his senior season. That year, he was selected to the Northeast-10 All-Conference Team and received the Bentley University Coach’s Award.

J.J. Barea will miss Mavs-Thunder Game 2

Here’s the Oklahoman with an update on the Thunder first round playoff opponent, the Dallas Mavericks:

J.J. Barea will miss Mavs-Thunder Game 2

The injuries are piling up for Dallas.

While his teammates took shots at the end of practice Sunday, Mavericks guard J.J. Barea sat on the sideline with his hat on backwards in his team apparel. Barea, who came into Game 1 against the Thunder nursing a right groin strain, said there was “no way” he’d play in Game 2 after re-aggravating the injury in the first half Saturday night.

Thunder player health update

The Thunder are up 1-0 against the Mavericks in their first round playoff series. Here’s the Oklahoman with a Thunder health update:

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he’s “pretty optimistic” about Cameron Payne, Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed each being available for Game 2 Monday against Dallas.

Collison (chest contusion) didn’t play in the second half and Mohammed (strained right calf) left in the fourth quarter of the Thunder’s 108-70 win in Game 1. Payne was inactive (hip soreness).

Cavs win Game 1 vs Pistons

The Cavaliers took a 1-0 first round playoff series lead againts the Pistons Sunday. Here’s Michigan Live reporting:

There is a distinct difference between a team that knows how to win in the playoffs and one finding its way.

The Detroit Pistons might work their way to the positive side of that equation in time, but in Game 1 of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, it was the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers whose superstars closed the show in the fourth quarter for a 106-101 victory Sunday.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night here but the opener had to leave the Pistons with a gnawing feeling that this was their chance to steal home-court advantage — whether they could have kept it is a separate debate — and they let it get away…

The “Big Three” — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — combined for 21 of the Cavs’ 30 fourth-quarter points. They totaled 81 points for the game — 31 for Irving, 28 for Love, 22 for James.

Love (13 rebounds) and James (11 assists) had double-doubles.

J.J. Barea health in question for Game 2

Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the Dallas Mavericks, who can use all the help they can get in the health department while battling the heavily-favored Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2016 Playoffs:

J.J. Barea health in question for Game 2

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea’s status for Game 2 is in question after he aggravated his strained groin during Saturday’s 108-70 Game 1 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Barea did not play in the second half because of the injury, the same one that had limited him in recent weeks.

“I’m very, very concerned,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Indiana Pacers’ Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Vogel led the Pacers to the best record in the Eastern Conference at 6-1. The Pacers won their final three games and held off the Detroit Pistons for the seventh seed in the East playoffs. Indiana averaged 108 points per game and shot a conference-best 49.3 percent from the field in April. Four of the Pacers’ six wins came by double digits, and their +8.6 scoring differential led the conference.

Rivers guided the Clippers, the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, to a 6-1 record, tops in the West. The Clippers surrendered 100 or more points just twice in seven games and held opponents to an average of 94.1 points on a league-low 40.6 percent shooting from the field. L.A. posted back-to-back home wins over two West playoff teams, the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, on April 10 and 12, rounding out a 4-0 month at Staples Center.

Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Boston’s Brad Stevens, Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, Portland’s Terry Stotts and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.

The Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Powell helped the Raptors to a 6-2 record behind averages of 15.3 points (tops in the Eastern Conference), 4.4 rebounds (seventh), 2.5 assists (tied-fifth) and 1.4 steals (third). He scored in double figures in six of eight games and shot 54.8 percent from the field. In Toronto’s regular-season finale, Powell scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting (including 5-of-6 from three-point range) and added nine rebounds and five assists during the Raptors’ 103-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Towns becomes the first player to sweep a season of Kia NBA Rookie of the Month awards since the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard in 2012-13. In April, Towns helped the Timberwolves to a 4-3 mark as he led all rookies in scoring (18.9 ppg), rebounding ( 11.7 rpg), blocks (1.7 bpg) and minutes (35.6 mpg). Towns capped his first NBA season with his 51st double-double (third most in the NBA) when he tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds during Minnesota’s 144-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on April 13.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, New York’s Jerian Grant, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Utah’s Trey Lyles.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden today were named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

James, who captured his third consecutive monthly honor, led the Eastern Conference in scoring (28.8 ppg) while shooting 65.6 percent from the field (second in the East), including a conference-best 56.3 percent (9-for-16) from three-point range. He added 8.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists (third in the East) in a conference-high 36.9 minutes. James scored at least 30 points in three of his five games, including a 34-point performance against the Hawks on April 11, when the Cavs clinched the top seed in the East playoffs with a 109-94 victory. He also grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds in a 110-108 overtime win over the Hawks on April 1.

Harden led the NBA in scoring (34.8 ppg) as the Rockets closed the season 4-2 to secure the final playoff spot in the West. He shot 49.3 percent from the field and ranked fifth in the West in three-point shooting at 51.7 percent (30-for-58). Harden also ranked fifth in the conference in assists (7.2 apg) and second in minutes (38.9 mpg). He scored at least 30 points in five of six games and hit the 40-point mark twice. On April 13, he scored 38 points as the Rockets clinched a playoff berth by defeating the Sacramento Kings 116-81.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Phoenix’s Mirza Teletovic, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall.

Denver Nuggets General Manager and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced a number of title changes today.

Jared Jeffries, who joined Denver’s front office during the summer of 2013 following an impressive 11-year NBA career, is now the team’s Director of Pro Personnel. The Indiana University alum’s previous title was Pro Personnel Scout.

Tommy Balcetis has been named Director of Analytics after serving as Manager of Analytics since coming to Denver in 2013. Before arriving in Denver he spent two years as an analyst for Fidelity Investments and one year working in the NBA League office in London after graduating from Harvard University.

Scott Howard joined the Nuggets’ front office prior to the 2015-16 season and now holds the title of Director of College Scouting. He came to Denver after serving as the Director of Scouting for the Charlotte Hornets franchise since 2008.

Additionally, coming into the 2015-16 season, Arturas Karnisovas received a new title of Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations.

On the basketball side, Steve Hess will now hold the title of Director of Performance/Assistant Coach and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. The Ithaca College graduate is one of just six trainers worldwide on the Under Armour training council, is the official spokesperson for the National Sports Center for the Disabled and is a member of NBA Team Fit. The upcoming 2016-17 season will be his 20th with the Denver Nuggets organization.

Felipe Eichenberger also has a new title of Associate Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. He joined the Denver Nuggets in 2011 as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The Sao Paulo, Brazil native attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University where he was a four-year member of the basketball team and graduated with his degree in health and sports science. He also recently received his Masters in Kinesiology.

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