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Top NBA assistant gets permission to speak with other teams


Top NBA assistant gets permission to speak with other teams

The hottest coach through the first half of the NBA season was only 35 years old. His squad finished the year with a 73-9 record, good for best in league history, and is just beginning an all-out assault on the Western Conference playoffs. 

So why is the club allowing him to speak to other teams about job openings? Because he's still only an assistant. 

That's right: Luke Walton, the Warriors' top assistant, officially received permission to explore his options on the coaching market -- after the playoffs, of course. 

Head coach Steve Kerr spoke Monday about rumors that Walton had been in contact with Knicks President Phil Jackson about a potential opening in New York. Via ESPN.com

"We'll give Luke permission, but it would be after a series ended and we have a little spare time, but it's important to note that Phil has not reached out to Luke about the job. That's false. Friendships sometimes dictate conversation, and there was some of that, but nothing to do with the job."

The now-36-year-old has only one prior season of NBA coaching experience, but his accomplishments are hard to ignore.  

Walton took over interim head coaching duties for Golden State from the start of the 2015-16 season until January 22nd, when Kerr returned from a health-related leave of absence. In that span, the second-year assistant guided his team to a 39-4 record, including an NBA record 24-0 start (though league rules officially credit his wins to Kerr). 

Granted, Walton inherited a defending NBA champion whose roster was stocked with once-in-a-generation talent, but he should get some credit for helping his players avoid a post-title slump and handle the pressure of their record-setting pace. 

The Knicks aren't the only ones with reported interest in Walton. ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Suns may also target him if they decide against keeping interim head coach Earl Watson. 

But it remains to be seen whether any job could entice Walton to leave a potential dynasty in Golden State. After all, he won two NBA championships playing nine seasons with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers -- a dynasty in its own right. 

His father, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, thinks he should stay right where he is. Speaking with For The Win, the elder Walton said his son should never leave the Warriors. 

"I always tell him the same thing: 'Luke, it doesn’t ever get any better than what you have right now.' I was part of three of the greatest teams ever -- UCLA, Portland, the Celtics. I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum too. There are opposite ends of every teeter-totter, so I tell him, “Money can’t buy what you have.” Head coaching jobs, they’re open for a reason. Those reasons don’t exist in Golden State."

There's certainly merit to that argument, but it won't deter teams seeking new head coaches from contacting Walton. Especially if he wins another title this year.

The Wizards have their own job to fill, but are seeking an experienced candidate and are unlikely to consider the Warriors assistant. 

MORE WIZARDS: Crawford's 6th man award reminds us Wizards didn't have one

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.


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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.