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Golden State Warriors hire Leandro Barbosa as player-mentor coach

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Former NBA guard Leandro Barbosa has retired from playing professional basketball and will join Steve Kerr’s staff with the Golden State Warriors as a player-mentor coach.

Barbosa, who played 14 years in the league, and most recently was playing professionally in Brazil before the COVID-19 pandemic cut his team’s season short, won a championship with the Warriors in 2015-16 and is excited to be reunited with Kerr and several of his former teammates.

“He’s been my coach, when I was here he also was my friend,” Barbosa said of Kerr, during a Monday conference call with reporters. “We had a really close relationship when he was a GM for the Phoenix Suns, so every once in a while we used to talk. And he mentioned to me what I want to do after I played and I always told him that I wanted to be an assistant coach, not a head coach, but be able to talk to the players, kind of teach them, I think I’m kind of good at that. He gave me the opportunity and I talked to the family, my wife, and she said, “Yes, let’s do it.”

The 37-year-old said he has always kept in touch with Kerr via texts, but talks got more serious in the last week after Barbosa decide to retire from playing and transition into coaching. His new role will include sitting on the “back of the bench” during games, but also working out with players during practice and teaching them off the court lessons as well.

Barbosa praised former teammate, and new Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash as someone who helped with various lessons on and off the floor.

“I will be on the court, on the practice facility,” Barbosa said. “I also will be practicing with the guys because I’m capable, I’m still in shape … I will be talking to the players, all the experience that I have over the years that I play on the NBA [stage], I think I have a chance to talk to them and make them understand what this business is all about.”

For Barbosa, the new chapter comes after some emotional ups and downs over the last year which included him and his wife testing positive for COVID-19.

“When we had that, it was [a] crazy time,” Barbosa said. “Especially for me, because I didn’t know it was that bad when I got the virus. I’m glad I had somebody that could take of me and talk to the doctors because I couldn’t fight. I didn’t have the power to fight against this virus.”

Now healthy and recovered, Barbosa admitted that he was “sad” to be leaving his home country of Brazil to come back to the United States in the midst of the pandemic, but was looking forward to when things were back to normal again in the future.

“As soon as I got to San Francisco, I got really upset because the city doesn’t look like it used to when I was here,” Barbosa said. “So I was really upset. In Brazil it’s a little bit normal, the situation, so you see more people, you see people go to the restaurants, doing stuff, and here it’s not the same. … Everything will be back to normal, but it was tough, and now I got this opportunity to be back and work with the Warriors, it’s just a pleasure.”

One of the things that led Barbosa back to the States, but especially to the Warriors was the fact that he feels the organization’s culture is “totally different” than anywhere he played during his professional career.

“I feel here like I never feel anywhere [else],” Barbosa said. “I felt for a minute in Phoenix and then the organization changed and it went to a different way. Here with the Warriors I feel like I’m [a member of] the family. Everybody is close to me. … If you have a good organization, you have a good team, you have good things happening on the court.”

As for the possibility of playing a role on Brazil’s National team if and when next summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics take place, Barbosa was non-committal about a decision and wants to see how the next few months shake out first.

“It’s too early for me to think about that,” Barbosa said. “I don’t have no invitation yet. It was a surprise to a lot of people in Brazil that I retired … no one had an idea that I was going to get this job, this opportunity and retire myself. A lot of people think that I should have kept playing but at the end, it’s a great opportunity. So I don’t know … we’ll see what happens [over the next few months] and we’ll go from there.”

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Indiana Pacers hire Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as head coach

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The Indiana Pacers have agreed to a multiyear deal to hire Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their head coach, sources told ESPN.

The Pacers officially named Bjorkgren as their new head coach Tuesday but did not disclose terms of his deal.

Bjorkgren, a disciple of reigning NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse, sold the Pacers on his history of innovation, adaptability and winning in his time as an NBA assistant and G League head coach, according to sources.

“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement released by the team. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”

Bjorkgren worked with Nurse in two stops in the G League, winning a title with him in 2011 in Iowa. Bjorkgren reached the G League Finals as head coach of Santa Cruz in 2013 before arriving in the NBA in 2015 as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns.

Bjorkgren, 45, reunited with Nurse in Toronto in July 2018 and was a part of his staff in the Raptors’ championship season.

“I am honored to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers,” Bjorkgren said in a statement. “This is something I have prepared for during my career. I want to thank Kevin, Chad (Buchanan), Kelly (Krauskopf), Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Herb and Steve Simon for this opportunity. I also want to thank Nick Nurse for giving me my first professional coaching job 14 years ago.

“I’m looking forward to working with this great team to achieve our goal as NBA Champions.”

The Pacers are replacing Nate McMillan, who was dismissed after four consecutive trips to the playoffs. McMillan had a 183-136 record in Indiana, including 3-16 in the postseason.

The Pacers have made five consecutive postseason appearances but have been swept in the first round each of the past two years.

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Sources — Indiana Pacers to hire Nate Bjorkgren as head coach

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The Indiana Pacers have agreed to a multi-year deal to hire Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their head coach, sources tell ESPN.

Bjorkgren, a disciple of reigning NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse, sold the Pacers on his history of innovation, adaptability and winning in his time as an NBA assistant and G League head coach, according to sources.

Bjorkgren worked with Nurse in two stops in the G League, winning a title with him in 2011 in Iowa. Bjorkgren reached G League Finals as head coach of Santa Cruz in 2013 before arriving in the NBA in 2015 as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns.

Bjorkgren, 45, reunited with Nurse in Toronto in July 2018 and was a part of his staff in the Raptors’ championship season.

The Pacers are replacing Nate McMillan, who was dismissed after four consecutive trips to the playoffs. McMillan had a 183-136 record in Indiana, including 3-16 in the postseason.

The Pacers have made five consecutive postseason appearances but have been swept in the first round each of the past two years.

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NBA predictions – What’s next for the biggest players in free agency and trade season

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This NBA offseason is full of decisions that could impact the hierarchy of the league for years to come.

Will back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hold off on signing a supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks? Will the Golden State Warriors keep or trade the No. 2 overall pick in November’s draft? Will the Brooklyn Nets deal for a third superstar to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving?

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel about five of the biggest offseason storylines.

MORE: Where the real power is held this offseason


Which path will Giannis choose?

For most of our panel, the choice seems clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo should and probably will wait a year to decide whether to sign a supermax contract to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks posted the NBA’s best record for the second-straight regular season but again fell short of the Finals. After their elimination, Antetokounmpo said, “Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years [and] come out here and compete every single year for a championship.”

But he didn’t say that he was ready to sign a five-year, $220 million extension.

Will he ultimately ask for a trade, à la Anthony Davis in New Orleans? Or will the Bucks get the answer they want? Either way, we might have to wait until 2021 to find out.

What should Antetokounmpo do?

What will Antetokounmpo do?

MORE: How 11 teams can try to land Giannis


Will it be the Warriors picking at No. 2?

The Golden State Warriors hope their lottery detour was a brief one, but it did yield the No. 2 pick in the draft.

We asked the panel what the Warriors should do with that valuable pick, and a majority endorsed a “win now” approach for the team that took three of the past six NBA titles. Also relevant: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are already 32, 30 and 30 years old, respectively.

The vote was far from unanimous, as a large minority of the panel thought the correct “light years” move would be looking to bring in a top draft prospect to build for the future. Of course, that draft pick would be eligible to be traded, along with Minnesota Timberwolves‘ 2021 first-round pick held by the Warriors, so the story of Golden State’s trip to the lottery still has chapters to be written.

What should the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 3.8%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 38.5%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

What will the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 11.5%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 30.8%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

MORE: Big decisions await the Warriors


Will Chris Paul be in a Thunder uniform next season?

The Thunder parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan last month, signaling what could be the beginning of a full rebuild in Oklahoma City. Will All-Star point guard Chris Paul be the first domino to fall?

Our panel thinks so, with the majority agreeing that OKC should and will move the future Hall of Famer this offseason.

Paul’s contract might play a part in why a handful of other panelists think CP3 will remain in a Thunder uniform next season. Paul is owed more than $41 million in 2020-21 and more than $44 million in 2021-22, which makes him one of the most difficult-to-trade players in the league.

What should the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 88.5%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 11.5%

What will the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 80.8%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 19.2%

MORE: Which direction is OKC headed?


Is Brooklyn’s third star already on the roster?

In a fascinating split, our panel predicts the Brooklyn Nets will make a big trade for a third star — but should instead give their current trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert a chance.

Of course, due to Durant missing a full season with a torn Achilles, that threesome has never actually taken the court together. With Durant and Irving expected to be healthy, and with Steve Nash as the new coach, will the Nets swing for the fences?

Our panel suspects they will. In his column on Tuesday, Kevin Pelton explores the reasons why LeVert might not be an ideal fit and which stars the Nets might pursue.

What should the Nets do?

What will the Nets do?

MORE: Why the Nets are a team to watch in trade season


Does Philly’s offseason shakeup continue?

After being swept in the first round inside the playoff bubble and the subsequent firing of coach Brett Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers headed into the offseason full of questions. The franchise answered one of them earlier this month when it named Doc Rivers as the new coach. Now the spotlight shifts to whether Philadelphia will make any big changes to its roster this offseason.

Our panel is nearly split on whether the 76ers should do it, but the majority agrees that Philly will ultimately see what Rivers can do with its star core intact for the 2020-21 season.

What should the 76ers do?

What will the 76ers do?

MORE: How Doc Rivers helps the Sixers contend

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