Source: Sixers to interview Jeff Hornacek, Mike Malone

5-2-13-jeff-hornacek-ap.jpg

Source: Sixers to interview Jeff Hornacek, Mike Malone

The Sixers have contacted Utah Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek about the team's head-coaching vacancy, according to a league source.

They have also been granted permission to interview both Golden State Associate head coach Michael Malone and Pacers Associate head coach Brian Shaw, according to the source. But because both coaches are currently at work in the NBA playoffs, when they have a conversation with general manager Tony DiLeo and the Sixers' brass remains up in the air.

Hornacek, who had a 14-year NBA career, interviewed for the Orlando Magic head coaching position, a job that was later given to Jaqcue Vaughn.

Over the years, Hornacek was asked first by Boston president and GM Danny Ainge in 2004 to interview for the Celtics head coaching position. Hornacek declined the offer to spend time with his family.

Ainge ended up hiring a man who, nine years later, remains in place. Doc Rivers has won an NBA championship and made another trip to the NBA Finals

In 2008, John Paxson, Chicago’s VP of basketball operations, interviewed Hornacek for the Bulls' head coaching position. Later that year, Steve Kerr, then president of basketball operations and GM with the Suns, invited Hornacek to interview for the head coaching position in Phoenix. Neither interview worked out.

But Hornacek was not out of the NBA loop after he retired from playing. In 2007, he was hired by the Jazz as a shooting coach. He would fly from his Phoenix home to Salt Lake City to work with Andrei Kirilenko and others. It filled his desire to be in the game without sacrificing time with his family, something clearly he did over his 14-year playing career. He held that position for four years until he became an assistant coach to Ty Corbin in 2011.

Hornacek has a connection to the Sixers, albeit a short one. He played a season and a half in a Sixers uniform, coming to Philadelphia in the trade that sent Charles Barkley to Phoenix. He was asked to play point guard because Hersey Hawkins was entrenched as the Sixers' shooting guard.

Fifty-three games into the 1993-94 season, Hornecek was traded to Utah for Jeff Malone. There, his NBA career was extended for seven more seasons that included two trips to the NBA Finals.

Known for being a guy who ran defenders ragged coming off screen after screen after screen, one can only imagine how Hornacek could help an Evan Turner who, three years into his pro career, struggles mightily to move without the ball.

Hornacek would be the first to tell you he didn’t have a 14-year NBA career because of his athletic ability, but because he knew the game so well. He shot 49.6 percent from the floor for his career and 40.3 percent from three.

The son of a high school basketball and baseball coach, Hornacek has said he always wanted to be a coach and always thought he would be a coach.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.