2017 NBA Draft

Shootaround (June 20) -- Chauncey Billups, Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly have mutual interest

Plus, rising expectations for the Philadelphia 76ers and more from around the NBA world

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Report: Mutual interest between Cavs, Billups for front-office role — In his playing days with the Detroit Pistons, Chauncey Billups’ team routinely squared off against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. As the Cavs look to fill their newly vacant general manager position, there’s talk that Billups and the Cavs have interest in each other as Cleveland tries to reshape its front office. ESPN.com has more on the chatter:

Chauncey Billups and the Cleveland Cavaliers have mutual interest in a front-office role for the retired NBA player, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Billups has had a relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for more than a decade since Billups endorsed Rock Financial, Gilbert’s Detroit-based mortgage company, when the former guard was a member of the Detroit Pistons.

Gilbert and Billups are expected to meet Tuesday, sources told Windhorst.

In addition to his relationship with Gilbert, Billups is also close with Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue, and the two dined together several times during the NBA Finals.

Former Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz executive Justin Zanik will be a strong candidate to work under Billups should the ESPN analyst join the Cavaliers as president of basketball operations, league sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein.

Currently the Cavs’ front office is being run by a conglomeration of Koby Altman, Brock Aller, Tony Leotti, Jon Nichols and Mike Gansey, according to a team source. Gilbert is also “very engaged” in the Cavs’ business right now as they prepare for the draft and field potential trade opportunities, according to the source.

With the NBA draft Thursday, Cleveland has reportedly been engaged in trade talks involving the Indiana Pacers about Paul George, and the Chicago Bulls about Jimmy Butler.

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Big expectations just beginning for Sixers — Last season provided a glimmer of hope for Philadelphia 76ers fans as the team broke the 25-win mark for the first time in four seasons. They have a talented core of talent with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor leading the way. And, they have the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. If the team takes Washington’s Markelle Fultz with that choice as expected, it will make coach Brett Brown’s job more interesting — and much more scrutinized. Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

After four years during which expectations of success were limited, to say the least, Brett Brown steps into a coaching challenge this season with the 76ers in which the price of perceived failure would be significant.

Since the most recent season ended, a season in which he didn’t have the No. 1 overall draft pick on the court for a minute, and in which his stud center was available for just 31 games and limited in most of those, Brown has said repeatedly he is savoring the chance to coach when the stakes and the expectations are much higher.

“We’ve all endured a lot in the four years,” Brown said recently. “We’re getting to the stage where we’re looking forward to jumping into this in a real way.”

“The fan base is already excited by what they’ve seen,” Bryan Colangelo said Monday as he announced the trade with Boston for the top pick. “If you stepped across to our business office across the road, you’d probably hear a bell ringing a lot. The bell rings every time someone sells a new season ticket. I would venture to say we’re going to be sold out this year, playing to full capacity every night. It’s an interesting position to be in … and it will take more momentum on as we select on Thursday.”

That should set other bells ringing for the coaching staff. Since Sam Hinkie’s “process” began, the fans have been, in succession: horrified, apathetic, mildly interested, somewhat intrigued, carefully enthusiastic, very optimistic and, now, with another No. 1 pick to bolster the core, anticipating a winner. The public is buying in, and doing so with cash. The only danger is if the team steps back instead of forward, or sideways, or if the collection of shiny pieces isn’t able to be fit together by the coaches.

The expectations are rocketing again because of Joel Embiid, who still hasn’t proved his ability to stay on the court; and the unique pairing of back-to-back top picks in Ben Simmons and (assumedly) Fultz, neither of played his college team into the 68-team NCAA tournament. There’s a reason to be finally excited. It could work out great right away, but to say it’s a sure thing is a leap even Colangelo won’t take.

“There’s very few situations I can recall in history where you’re putting two No. 1 picks on the court at the same time for the first time,” Colangelo said. “I’m excited about that, but I’m nervous about that at the same time. I’m nervous because we’ve got a coaching staff that is driven to win and young players making their debuts are not always ready to win. We’re going to wind these guys up and do our best to make them ready and the coaching staff is going to have their challenges with a young core.”

That bottom line is building sustainable excellence and understanding that it would take a good deal of time and, even now, a whole lot of patience. Coaches understand the limits of organizational patience, however. It comes with the territory. And you can be sure it wasn’t a word mentioned to the people on the other end of the phone lines Monday when the bells were ringing loudly and the seats were filling for perhaps the most anticipated season in team history.

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Bucks look to future under new GM Horst — The optics from the outside of the Milwaukee Bucks’ front office changes were troublesome to many. From the moment former GM John Hammond left to take that role with the Orlando Magic, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding who would fill Hammond’s post in Milwaukee. The Bucks formally introduced new GM Jon Horst yesterday and attempted to clear up what happened, too, writes Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

There were a half-dozen interviews and three finalists before the team arrived at Jon Horst, its director of basketball operations, and swiftly moved to elevate him to GM.

At a news conference Monday morning, co-owner Wes Edens wasn’t particularly focused on the journey to that decision. Instead, he was excited that he and the team’s other two primary owners, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, believe they had selected the right candidate.

“It is about winning championships, that’s what this is all about, and we feel like we made a real step in the right direction here with Jon,” Edens said.

“The process may look like it’s a little bit sloppy but at the end of the day, the result is what matters. We got the right guy for the job and there’s not a lot of hand-wringing about what we could have done differently.”

While Horst wasn’t formally interviewed until the final days of the search, he was identified as a valuable asset to the organization from the outset.

A nine-year member of the team’s front office, Horst was immediately approached by Edens and Lasry after GM John Hammond, Horst’s mentor, left to become GM of the Orlando Magic on May 23 — a move that came in large part because the Bucks weren’t willing to offer Hammond the long-term offer Edens said he received from Orlando.

In that conversation, the owners reaffirmed their trust in Horst, telling him they wanted him to remain part of the organization.

The interviews in New York led to three finalists — Zanik, Denver Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas and former Atlanta Hawks GM Wesley Wilcox — coming to Milwaukee for another round of talks.

By the end of those interviews, though, it was clear there was not a consensus. Then a few days later, Karnisovas withdrew his name after being promoted to the Nuggets’ GM position.

Even with Zanik looking like the best remaining candidate, there still was not a consensus — not among the owners and not among the team’s staff. At that point, the search began to look clumsy and contentious.

Edens insists it wasn’t. He, Lasry and Dinan communicated constantly throughout, texting, talking and emailing at all hours of day.

When it comes to personnel decisions, Edens made it clear Monday that they will be made by Horst. He likened his new GM to a player who wants to take the last shot in a game, saying that ownership has full confidence he has what it takes to gather information from his staff, analyze it, make tough calls and live with the consequences.

He also stipulated that there will be a traditional-style hierarchy with Horst’s decisions on personnel and front-office matter ranking above those of Kidd.

In the results-oriented business of the NBA, Horst’s first major decisions will have to do with the draft, free agency and how he wants to build his team. He noted on Monday that restricted free agent Tony Snell is “someone that we value highly in our organization,” and that center Greg Monroe, who owns a player option for next year, is also a valuable piece.

When it comes to this year’s draft, Horst has been part of the team’s preparations for over a year. With picks Nos. 17 and 48 he’s looking to add depth to what he believes is a strong core.

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Stoudemire weighing NBA comeback — Former All-Star big man Amar’e Stoudemire passed on playing in the NBA last season to instead live and play ball in Israel. After his team won the Israeli Premier League championship last week, Stoudemire is weighing what to do next and hasn’t ruled out trying to return to the NBA. Marc Berman of the New York Post has more:

“It felt amazing after a long season to lift up the championship trophy,’’ Stoudemire told The Post in a phone interview Monday. “We had a great run.”

Now, what’s next? Stoudemire said he enjoyed living in Israel (he’s applied for citizenship). He easily adapted to the culture after adopting Jewish holiday rituals while playing for the Knicks from 2010-15.

But he didn’t see eye to eye with the head coach, Simone Pianigiani, according to Israeli journalist David Pick. Stoudemire called it “a roller-coaster ride,’’ and during the season told Israeli media the coaching staff would try to get him more involved in the offense. That never happened. He averaged 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 23 minutes per game as a sixth man.

Stoudemire will explore three options, and retirement is one of them. The 34-year-old still has pangs for one more go-round in the NBA.

“To play and win a championship my first year there, I could just call it quits and leave as a champion,’’ said Stoudemire, who never made it to the NBA Finals. “That could be an option. Another option is maybe to play with a team that needs quality veteran leadership here in the NBA. That could be an option. Or I could go back and defend the title for a back-to-back. I have time to think about it. Those are my three options.”

Stoudemire played one season in the triangle in Phil Jackson’s presidential reign, and left on good terms when he was bought out of his contract late in the 2014-2015 season to seek a playoff run with Dallas. Stoudemire has a strong relationship with Knicks owner James Dolan.

“Sure, I haven’t spoken to them yet about it, but that definitely could be an option,’’ Stoudemire said. “I have nothing but positive affirmations about the team and organization. That will be something I can think about.

“I’ve followed New York, always pulling for the Knicks to have success,’’ Stoudemire added. “I’ve been hearing the stories [about Carmelo Anthony]. I’m always rooting for the Knicks and Carmelo as well to have success. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case this year. I do have positive energy toward the team, and soon they’ll start succeeding.”

Stoudemire’s stats were modest, and he struggled with how Israeli referees whistled fouls and traveling violations. In the European Cup, Stoudemire’s stats rose to 13 points per game as the club made the Final Four. And he captured MVP honors in the All-Star Game in Tel Aviv.

Stoudemire said his minutes reduction was due to league rules. Two Israelis had to be in the starting lineup, and the configuration of the club, which had three other talented Americans (Jerome Dyson, Curtis Jerrells and Tarence Kinsey) made it best he came off the bench.


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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Atlanta Hawks are planning to start their arena renovations today … Does LeBron James’ wife want to live in Los Angeles at some point? … The Los Angeles Lakers had Gozaga’s Zach Collins in for a workout just in case they trade down in the Draft … The biggest summer in Utah Jazz history is getting started this week … The LA Clippers made it official yesterday and hired Jerry West as a consultant … It’s no longer the NBA D-League — it’s the NBA G League … We’ve got a new consensus mock draft and a new mock draft (which includes the second round now) …


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