On the court, it was about analytics to a fault. They governed all of his actions and conclusions. If a player shoots 20% when he dribbles more than twice going left, Bjorkgren expected him to be defended accordingly, regardless of the game’s flow or his players’ basketball intuition.
The upbeat and positive reinforcement persona — the polar opposite of McMillan — played well during the interview process. One league executive with knowledge of Bjorkgren's style called it "fake positivity" to IndyStar. Others drew similar conclusions, describing his delivery as awkward at best. As far back as December, in a shortened preseason, another league source with the team had raised red flags about Bjorkgren's methods, as he coached from an iPad.
IndyStar has talked to multiple league sources who’ve worked with Bjorkgren, including at previous stops, and they shared first-hand experiences that paint a picture similar to what transpired during his one disastrous season in Indiana. The consensus: They were shocked he became an NBA head coach so soon. It wasn’t just his lack of experience, which can be overcome with adequate staff supporting him, but his methods.
Off the court, Bjorkgren wanted players to wear only team-issued sweats on the plane, two league sources with knowledge of the situation said. He also had banned headwear such as do-rags. Another source added that McMillan had his demands, too, such as wearing slacks, a nice shirt and sometimes a jacket.
A league source said Pritchard was so dismayed by the lack of effort and commitment that he saw from his team that he spoke to them before games against San Antonio and Atlanta late in the season. He also was so dismayed two other times that he went into the locker room postgame to scold them for their performances.
If he had been present for the May 3 embarrassment at Washington, when the Pacers gave up 82 points in the first half, he likely would've done it a third time. Caris LeVert, a league source with knowledge of the situation told IndyStar, was among those most incredulous about Bjorkgren's lack of adjustments for the second half of that game. It was far from the only time he'd feel that way.
This isn't a question of whether Bjorkgren knows Xs and Os. It's his stubbornness when confronted with mounting evidence that his way isn't working that has been an issue. And he ignored the importance of unifying the team — players, assistants and support staff included — to build a strong culture, a league source told IndyStar.
Although various media outlets have reported that Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis wanted Bjorkgren fired — IndyStar did not — that wasn't accurate, according to multiple league sources since March. No player went to management demanding a firing then or even during exit interviews.
Bjorkgren's rise has been attributed to being lucky more than qualified. He was in the right places at the right times. A native Iowan, like Nurse and Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, he received the benefit of any doubt because of those relationships, multiple league sources told IndyStar. His behavior differed toward those he saw as his equals or above him in rank, but he made sure those beneath him knew their place. This wasn't evident to Pacers management during the season, a league source said. They did have trouble building a strong staff around Bjorkgren because he wasn't connected and other assistants weren't leaving their situations to join him.
J. Michael Falgoust: No indication either Sabonis or Brogdon ever asked for Bjorkgren's dismissal. As I'd reported since the deadline, players thought he catered to them too much League sources today confirmed to @IndyStarSports that's where he lost them. Unwilling to hard coach his best players
Scott Agness: Kevin Pritchard on moving on from Nate Bjorkgren: "This was my decision. “If healthy, I think we can compete with any of those (top) teams. Once you get into that area — assume health, assume the team comes together — I think we’re a tough out."
Scott Agness: Pacers make the news official: Bjorkgren will not return. Kevin Pritchard: "The 2020-21 season was not what any of us hoped or anticipated it would be, and our results on the court certainly did not meet the standards for what our organization and our fans have come to expect."
JD Shaw: The Pacers have confirmed that Nate Bjorkgren will not be retained as head coach. Full statement from Kevin Pritchard: pic.twitter.com/clSaFU515G
After one tumultuous season, the Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate Bjorkgren on Wednesday, sources told ESPN. Pacers management met with Bjorkgren on Tuesday to discuss his future and ultimately decided that the disconnect between him and a veteran locker room with playoff aspirations had created an insurmountable gulf, sources said. Bjorkgren had one guaranteed year left on his original three-year contract, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Pacers have a roster that should be a solid Eastern Conference playoff team with Sabonis, Brogdon, LeVert, Turner and Warren -- and couldn't move forward with a young coach who struggled managing locker room and staff. Had Pacers been moving toward rebuild, maybe Bjorkgren stays.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Nate Bjorkgren is out as Indiana's coach, sources tell ESPN.
September 19, 2021 | 3:08 pm EDT Update
“I’m optimistic about our team,” added Ballmer. “I’m optimistic about our team success, and that optimism is a force multiplier. In many ways, the reason we did this is consistent with that optimism as a force multiplier approach.”
The Clippers owner also paid the town of Inglewood $66.2 million for the land where Intuit Dome will sit. The Clippers will get some of that back, though. Intuit, the software company that makes Turbo Tax, will pay the team more than $500 million for a 23-year naming rights slot. That deal only enhanced Ballmer’s optimism. “This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy,” Ballmer added, clapping his hands. “Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”
The Clippers estimate the Intuit Dome will generate roughly $260 million in annual economic activity for Inglewood, including over 7,000 full-time and part-time jobs. The Clippers also committed to a $100 million community benefits package. “It’s a big market,” Ballmer said. “There’s plenty of fans that can be fans of the Clippers and Lakers. But we want to tell you who we are. I think there are many folks in LA who identify with this notion of being the underdog, the person who strides. It’s almost two LA’s. It’s not all showtime and movie business. Our fans are grinders.”
Ballmer has also displayed his willingness to spend on talent. Next season, the Clippers will spend $166 million per season on player contracts, the third highest in the NBA. That brings an $88 million luxury tax bill and includes paying stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George an average annual value of $44 million per season until 2025. Those two deals will expire a year after the Intuit Dome is scheduled to open. Asked to reveal the most challenging thing to deal with as a sports owner, Ballmer responded: “Injuries – they happen. We had an injury to Kawhi, and with this injury, we’re not sure how long he’s going to be out this year.”
Ballmer, 65, entered a conference room at the Clippers downtown LA office, having conducted over four interviews, with more on his schedule. The discussion with CNBC lasted a little over 15 minutes, covering various topics from the arena and his previous life in business. Powell’s words helped explain the optimism around Ballmer’s vision for the Clippers, starting with the Intuit Dome. “You have to be optimistic to take on a huge project when you don’t start with land,” Ballmer said. “Putting the land together is quite the circus of legal issues, resolutions. We had to buy the Forum as part of that process. You have to keep your optimism.”
Ballmer was referring to the $400 million in cash he paid Madison Square Garden Company, the previous owner of the Forum. The Lakers played there from 1967-1999, and the building mainly hosts concerts today. Ballmer needed to resolve legal issues with MSG, who complained Ballmer’s new arena would damage the Forum’s income. MSG purchased the Forum for $23.5 million in 2012 and cashed out in 2020, thanks to Ballmer.
Get ready for some primal screams. If not from Joakim Noah himself, then certainly at least from the United Center faithful. The Chicago Bulls announced Friday morning that tickets for all home games are on sale as of 10 a.m. That includes “Joakim Noah Night,” presented by NBC Sports Chicago, on Oct. 28 against—you guessed it—Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks.
Noah announced his retirement last season and attended one home game but it came before fans were allowed in the building. This season, fans who are either fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be attending games.