Posts Tagged ‘Rebuild’

Gregg Popovich is keeping it very real regarding the San Antonio Spurs‘ championship hopes.

The longtime Spurs head coach issued a tongue-in-cheek warning Monday to would-be bettors who are considering backing his young squad to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ll say it anyway, what the hell. Nobody here should go to Vegas with the thought of betting on us to win the championship,” Popovich told reporters at media day, courtesy of Adam Rossow of Spectrum News 1 Texas.

“And I know somebody will say, ‘Gosh, what a Debbie Downer. There’s a chance. What if they work really hard?’ It’s probably not gonna happen.”

San Antonio is considered a longshot to crack the Western Conference playoff picture, let alone win the title this season. The rebuilding Spurs are one of the youngest teams in the league, and all but four players on their current roster (Jakob PoeltlJosh RichardsonDoug McDermott, and Gorgui Dieng) have, at most, four NBA campaigns under their belt.

The 73-year-old head coach joked that the abundance of young faces has left him entirely unfamiliar with his personnel.

“I walked into the film room today, and there was this young kid sitting there, and I said, ‘Who the hell are you?'” he said, according to The Associated Press. “Seriously. He said … I forgot his name already. I don’t know anybody.”

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti is calling for patience ahead of another rebuilding season for his team.

“I don’t think anybody would say that we’re not a work in progress,”Presti said at a press conference Thursday. “At the same time, I think we’re a better team than we were this time last year, and we’re going to be a better team at the end of this season.”

He added, “When we get back to the postseason, it’s not going to happen because of one season. … It’s always a series of seasons that adds up.”

Oklahoma City moved on from head coach Billy Donovan and traded Chris Paul to the Phoenix Suns in the 2020 offseason, kick-starting its long-term rebuilding project.

Since then, the Thunder finished one spot above last place in the Western Conference twice, with a win-loss record of 46-108 (.298).

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander blossomed into a star since Paul’s departure, averaging 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.

However, the 24-year-old missed 63 games over the last two seasons due to various injuries and will miss the start of training camp due to a knee sprain.

Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall pick from this year’s draft, will miss the whole season due to a foot injury.

Presti said there are no long-term concerns Gilgeous-Alexander being injury-prone or Holmgren’s development being set back.

“Shai is just entering his pre-prime years,” Presti said, according to The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto. “Josh (Giddey), Chet, some of the other guys we have are still a few years away from getting to that point. At some point, you’re going to have those tenures overlap. That’s extremely exciting.”

Presti said he’s set on building a long-term playoff contender from the ground up.

“I really want the people here to experience another postseason. … And when we get there, it’s going to be not because we took the easiest path. It’s because we did it organically,” Presti said.

The first season of Seth Jones‘ eight-year, $76-million megadeal is about to begin, but the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t quite where the defenseman thought they would be when he signed last July.

“It was a little frustrating to see (the trades this summer) at first. It’s not really what I or anybody had in mind, looking back a couple years,” Jones said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope. “But it is what it is. It’s going to make a lot of us better in here. We’ll be patient with each other and help each other through this.”

He added, “I don’t have any regrets.”

The Blackhawks’ last two offseasons have been radically different. In 2021, Chicago made a series of splashy moves and seemed poised to make a push up the Central Division standings. The organization traded for Jones then signed him to a hefty extension, and they picked up veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The wheels swiftly fell off, though. The Blackhawks went 1-9-2 to begin 2021-22 and fired head coach Jeremy Colliton in early November. Far out of the playoff picture at the trade deadline in March, Chicago dealt Fleury to the Minnesota Wild and sent talented young forward Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Blackhawks ended last season in seventh place in the Central Division with a 28-42-12 record, and the losses continued this summer. Chicago moved on from Alex DeBrincatKirby DachDominik Kubalik, and Dylan Strome, while the futures of franchise mainstays Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are hazy at best.

In the midst of all the turnover that comes with a rebuild, Jones said he’s focusing on the “bigger picture.”

“Patience is going to be important this year. At the same time, we’re going into every game trying to win,” he said. “We’re going to have to be a disciplined, structured team this year (and) make sure teams earn their wins and goals against us.”

Jones, 27, posted five goals and 46 assists in 78 games during his first season in Chicago. He averaged a career-high 26:13 of ice time per contest, the most on the team.

Erik Karlsson is committed to the San Jose Sharks, even though the franchise could be staring at a long-term rebuild.

The Sharks hired Mike Grier as general manager and David Quinn as head coach this offseason, signaling a new direction for the organization after missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Former Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes as the new regime’s first big move, but Karlsson isn’t seeking a change of scenery himself.

“No, I committed here a long time ago,” the veteran defenseman told The Athletic’s Corey Masisak. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to early on. There’s a lot of things that probably played into that. I’m not going to get into details about that.

“But I am excited for the future here now. I hope we can move in the direction to be successful again. Is that going to be this year? I mean, who knows? But I do think something good can come out of here.”

The Sharks acquired Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators prior to the 2018-19 season when he was one of the league’s most dominant blue-liners. He collected 518 points in 627 games, capturing two Norris Trophies across nine seasons in Canada’s capital. But he hasn’t had the impact many expected of him in the Bay Area.

San Jose has only made the playoffs once since the trade, and Karlsson’s availability has been heavily limited due to injuries. The 32-year-old only played 50 games this past campaign as he required forearm surgery.

“I think the injuries that I’ve had since I got here … some of them probably could have been prevented a little bit, and some of them were just like, things happen,” Karlsson said.

“I broke my thumb when (I) blocked a shot. I mean, what are you going to do? That’s part of the game. I had some wear and tear where, if we were in a different position where you can take some time off and maybe look after it a little bit different, maybe it doesn’t get to the point where you have to have surgery. It is all circumstantial.”

Karlsson is under contract for five more seasons at an $11.5-million cap hit, which carries a full no-move clause.

Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts knows the club’s performance this season is not up to par with what fans have come to expect over the past few years.

“I’ll be the first to acknowledge this is not the type of baseball Cubs fans deserve,” Ricketts said in a statement to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.

“Our decision last year to move away from Cubs players who brought us a World Series title was tough, but we have a plan to return to championship contention by building the next great Cubs team around a young core of players augmented by free agent signings – and we’re making progress.”

Chicago dealt a handful of stalwarts from its 2016 World Series-winning squad before last season’s trade deadline, signaling a transitional period for the franchise.

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was active this past offseason, signing right-hander Marcus Stroman and Japanese star Seiya Suzuki to lucrative contracts in free agency.

The team raised some eyebrows at this year’s trade deadline when it decided not to move catcher Willson Contreras or infielder/outfielder Ian Happ. Ricketts still believes that the Cubs are in a strong position to improve quickly, and he vowed to be aggressive this offseason.

“Our moves over the past year and at the trade deadline have put us in a position of strength in both player and financial currency,” Ricketts said. “We plan to be very active again this offseason competing in the free agent market.”

The Cubs entered play Thursday a disappointing 45-65 and are just one game ahead of the last-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

Jonathan Toews isn’t thrilled with the idea of waiting out a lengthy rebuild now that Chicago Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has fully embraced that strategy.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about a five-plus-year process, according to Kyle,” Toews told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “So that part of it doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. I can’t speak for (Patrick Kane), but I definitely feel that the amount of turnover our team has gone through every single year these last three or four years, that’s where it gets really, really draining. And exhausting.”

Toews cited the recent trades Davidson pulled off at the draft, in which he dealt a bona fide star forward to the Ottawa Senators and sent 21-year-old Kirby Dach – who Chicago drafted third overall just three years ago – to the Montreal Canadiens.

“You have a guy like Alex DeBrincat who was under Kaner’s wing. And I like to think that Kirby and I had that bond in some ways, too. And out they go, out the door,” the 34-year-old Toews said. “Over and over, we’ve seen that turnover. I’m learning to be more patient, but there’s no doubt that timeline is pretty daunting. … I’m not going to sit here and say what I’m going to do or what the future holds for me, because I really don’t know.”

Davidson’s roster purge started well before the offseason. After underachieving despite adding Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones over a four-day span last July, the Blackhawks traded forward Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning before the deadline in March. Hagel, a promising winger in his own right, was under contract through 2023-24.

“When we traded Hags, and then Cat and Kirby, reality really set in that, OK, this is where we’re at, and they’ve got to really focus on the future,” Toews said. “And it’s just unfortunate that it’s come to that. But it is what it is. So much of that stuff has been out of my control for quite some time, and it’s a weird place to be in as a captain.”

Toews also noted that seeing Evgeni Malkin – who’ll turn 36 on Sunday – re-sign with the perennially competitive Pittsburgh Penguins “definitely puts things in perspective” in terms of the Blackhawks captain’s own situation.

The accomplished Canadian center can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. He and Kane – who’s in the same boat contractually – have full no-movement clauses, so they’d have to approve any trades that would send them elsewhere.

The Miami Marlins may be ready to tear it down yet again.

Miami is prepared to listen to offers for any of its big-league players except ace Sandy AlcantaraJon Heyman of the New York Post reports.

There are plenty of potential trade chips who could fetch good returns for Miami. Right-hander Pablo Lopez, who owns a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts and is arbitration-eligible for another two years, would likely be one of the most sought-after arms ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline.

Other potential trade candidates include first-time All-Stars Jazz Chisholm Jr. (who’s currently on the injured list) and first baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper, Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings, and relievers Steven OkertRichard Bleier, and Anthony Bass.

The 45-51 Marlins came into this year with hopes of taking another step toward contention. They signed free-agent sluggers Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia over the winter and put together a bright young rotation headlined by Alcantara, Lopez, and last year’s NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers.

But outside of Alcantara’s Cy Young-worthy season, things haven’t gone according to plan in South Florida. While the Marlins enter Tuesday only 5.5 games back of a playoff spot, they’ve lost 11 of their last 17 and have been outscored 94-61 in July. Their big offseason acquisitions have also flopped; Soler is on the IL, while Garcia’s put up a career-low .590 OPS with just seven homers.

Since opening what’s now known as LoanDepot Park in 2012, the Marlins have made the playoffs and posted a winning record just once, which happened during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

During a break between Golden State’s Western Conference finals games against Dallas, then-Warriors top assistant Mike Brown jumped on a plane to San Diego to watch his new star De’Aaron Fox work out and take the Sacramento guard and his family to lunch.

Brown got right back on a plane afterward to rejoin Golden State for playoff preparations.

At last Tuesday, Brown was formally introduced as the Kings’ new coach, just one day after celebrating the Warriors’ fourth championship in eight years with a victory parade through San Francisco.

“I’ve been heavily involved,” Brown said of getting going with the Kings as the schedule permitted. “I’ve talked to every single player on multiple occasions.”

Sacramento hired the well-traveled Brown in May but he stayed with the Warriors through their postseason run that ended with the franchise’s fourth championship in eight years last Thursday night in the clinching Game 6 at Boston.

“First of all, I’d like to start out by thanking everyone in Warrior land,” Brown said.

The 52-year-old Brown will be tasked with ending the league’s longest playoff drought ever at 16 years. He takes over for previous Warriors top assistant Luke Walton, hired by the Kings away from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 before his firing last November. Alvin Gentry took over on an interim basis before the Kings finished 30-52.

Sacramento’s .366 winning percentage was its worst since the 2017-18 season.

Brown is determined to build a consistent winner in the state capital.

“One of the main reasons that I was brought here was to bring some leadership in a lot of different areas,” he said. “I’ve been with a lot of different teams in my 30 years. I’ve experienced something that I believe can get organizations over the top, not just in one year but year in and year out, and that’s having a winning culture. My job is to lead in that area. Every organization out there, in my opinion, has a soul. The stronger that soul is the better that organization will be.”

Brown previously had two stints as head coach in Cleveland, where he guided the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, and also coached the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since moving to Sacramento in 1985, the Kings have had only one stretch of success, making the playoffs in all eight seasons under coach Rick Adelman from 1999-2006. Adelman was fired in 2006 and remains the only coach in the Sacramento era to post a winning record in any season.

“We conducted in the front office here a very robust, thorough, comprehensive process,” Kings general manager Monte McNair said. “We wanted to ensure that we found the right coach. We did a lot of research and it came down to three key things for us: experience, successful head coaching experience, relationships, the ability to build relationships across the organization, and leadership — leadership as a head coach and leadership for everything that we’re trying to do here.”

On several occasions, Brown stepped in for Warriors coach Steve Kerr, most recently when Kerr dealt with COVID-19 and missed three playoff games.

Now, it’s time for a new chapter that he hopes will produce a regular contender much like where he has been.

And when someone congratulated Brown on the Warriors’ title, Brown showed off his signature warm smile and cracked: “Can you say that again?”

“I’ve got four,” he added, holding up four fingers and chuckling.

Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella admitted during his introductory press conference Friday that his team has a long way to go after a tough 2021-22 season.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to be Stanley Cup contenders next year. I get that,” he said. “I know there’s some work to do. … That’s what I want to do, that’s what coaches do. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

He continued: “I’m not afraid of what people are saying about the team. I get it’s out there. It fuels me. … I’m looking forward to getting to the bunker in that locker room with all the Flyers and (going) about our business.”

Despite winning six of their first 10 games, the Flyers finished last in the Metropolitan Division with a 25-46-11 record under Alain Vigneault and interim bench boss Mike Yeo. Philadelphia missed the playoffs for the third time in the past four years.

Tortorella believes his first order of business is to improve the team’s play around the puck to make life easier for young netminder Carter Hart.

“I think we need to give Carter a little more support as far as how we play around him, allow him to really get himself into the National Hockey League. … This is how you go about it,” Tortorella said.

The Flyers ranked in the bottom third of the league in shot attempts for (46.6%), expected goals for (46.5%), and scoring chances for (44.9%), per Natural Stat Trick. They also gave up the seventh-most high-danger chances at five-on-five this season.

Tortorella added that, though he isn’t a fan of the term, Philadelphia’s “culture” needs to change.

“Bottom line is, I want the team to be hard,” he said. “I think we need to present ourselves, look harder coming off the bus, coming into buildings. I want other teams to say, ‘You know what? We’ve got our hands full tonight.'”

A two-time Jack Adams Award winner, Tortorella spent the 2021-22 season as a studio analyst for ESPN.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in full rebuild mode following a dismal 2021-22 season, calling into question the futures of franchise staples Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Despite the uncertainty, general manager Kyle Davidson said there’s “absolutely” still a spot for the three-time Stanley Cup winners in the Windy City.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Davidson told reporters Tuesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope. “What their roles are and how they fit into things, that’s part of the dialogue that we’re having.”

He added: “Having them around is something we’re never going to shy away from because they can show this next wave of players how it’s done. And you never know, maybe they could be part of (this) when we’re back to having success.”

Davidson added the Blackhawks’ return to postseason relevancy may be a slow one.

“It’s not that we don’t want to win as soon as possible,” he said. “It’s just when you look at the bigger picture, you realize it might take a little longer than (the players) may hope, perhaps.”

Toews, who’s captained the team since 2008, called for more communication between himself, the coaching staff, and the front office last month amid a losing skid.

Those comments came after Toews was noncommittal on his future with Chicago following the Blackhawks’ trade of talented forward Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the deadline in March.

“Now, all of a sudden, you realize no one on our team is safe, and we could all be going in different directions in the near future – it’s pretty discouraging,” Toews told The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus at the time.

Chicago finished seventh in the Central Division with a 28-42-12 record.

After missing the entirety of the 2020-21 campaign with chronic immune response syndrome, Toews put up 37 points in 71 games this season. Kane had a stellar year, logging 26 goals and 66 assists in 78 contests.

Both players have one season remaining on identical eight-year, $84-million deals.