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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.
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.
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: Nate Bjorkgren is out as Indiana’s coach, sources tell ESPN.
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August 11, 2022 | 11:23 am EDT Update
On June 30, Kevin Durant formally asked the Brooklyn Nets to trade him. On July 1, league sources say Durant was owed and received an eight-figure check from the Nets — one of two massive advance payments that the disgruntled superstar is scheduled to collect from Brooklyn by Oct. 1 while he’s also in the midst of lobbying the team to move him. If it wasn’t sufficiently audacious that Durant is demanding a trade before playing a single game under the four-year, $194 million contract extension he signed in August 2021, there’s even more to consider.
Dario Saric, 28, was forced to sit out the entire 2021-22 NBA season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals. But he is cleared for action and set up for the Chequered Ones. “I missed the national team, it is always an honor and pride to play for Croatia,” he explained to gathered reporters during a break from practice, “The feeling of being back is fantastic. After the end of the NBA season, I trained there until mid-July. I was preparing to be as fit as possible. I feel good. It’s nice to be with these players.”
Coming in for his fourth participation in EuroBasket, he will join forces with fellow NBA players Ivica Zubac of the Los Angeles Clippers and Bojan Bogdanovic of the Utah Jazz. From there, he intends to return to the Suns for the 2022-23 season. “Right now, the plan is to go back to Phoenix,” Saric said referring to his contract lasting through the next season, “I talked with the coach, but you never know in the NBA. I don’t worry about that. I am trying to come back from injury and my focus is on the national team.”
Quinton Mayo: The Washington Wizards unveil their 2022-23 Classic Edition jerseys. These uniforms celebrate the team’s 25th anniversary since rebranding to the Wizards name in 1997. Washington saw four postseason appearances in the original uniforms. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/U51UE2JAbI
August 11, 2022 | 2:12 am EDT Update
There’s good reason for pessimism, Durant’s ultimatum to Nets owner Joe Tsai did not light a fire under trade talks. If anything, it made it far less likely a deal gets done in the short term. — why would Boston improve its offer now? It robbed the Nets of leverage. For example, Brooklyn was trying to get Boston to put Smart in the trade, but why would they even consider it now? That said, even without Smart (or Robert Williams III, sources told NBC Sports he is not available), a Celtics offer with Jaylen Brown may be the best one the Nets will see.