Knicks, Amundson Reach Rest-Of-Season Deal

January 29 at 10:18am CST By Chuck Myron

The Knicks will re-sign Lou Amundson to a deal that covers the rest of the season, a league source tells Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). His second 10-day contract with New York expires at night’s end. It’s not clear whether his new pact will have an additional season tacked on, but it’ll be for the minimum salary, since that’s all the Knicks can hand out. He’ll join Lance Thomas, whom the Knicks are also reportedly set to re-sign for the season, and Langston Galloway, who signed a two-year deal Tuesday with the Knicks, to give the Knicks a full 15-man roster.

Amundson came off the bench in his Knicks debut, but he has since made five straight starts, and the Knicks have gone 4-1 in those games. New York was just 5-36 before Amundson entered the starting lineup, and on Wednesday coach Derek Fisher publicly implored the front office to re-sign the big man. The ninth-year veteran has scored only 4.7 points in 23.2 minutes per game in New York, but he’s averaging 6.5 boards per night. He, like Thomas, came to the Knicks in a three-team trade earlier this month, and the Knicks signed both to consecutive 10-day contracts after waiving them shortly after the swap to buy some time before guaranteeing their minimum salaries for the rest of the season.

The 32-year-old Amundson, a Mark Bartelstein client, has signed 10-day contracts with four different teams throughout his career, as our 10-Day Contract Tracker shows. Only once before did he parlay a 10-day contract into a deal for the rest of the season, having done so with the Sixers in his rookie season.

Knicks To Ink Lance Thomas For Rest Of Season

January 29 at 9:49am CST By Chuck Myron

The Knicks will re-sign combo forward Lance Thomas to a contract that covers the rest of the season when his second 10-day contract with the team expires at the end of Friday, reports Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Such rest-of-season deals often carry an additional year with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed salary, as is the case with New York’s latest arrangement with Langston Galloway, but Begley doesn’t indicate whether Thomas’ new contract will extend any longer than this season. The Knicks are limited to giving out the minimum salary.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher publicly lobbied Wednesday for new deals for Thomas as well as fellow 10-day signee Lou Amundson, who’s started the last five games for the Knicks and whose second 10-day contract with New York expires tonight. Thomas, a John Spencer client, has also played a significant role in six appearances with New York, averaging 11.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. He’s at a career high 21.6 MPG for the season, having made 13 starts for the injury-plagued Thunder at the beginning of the year before Oklahoma City sent him to New York in a three-team trade earlier this month.

New York waived Thomas shortly after the trade to avoid guaranteeing his minimum-salary contract for the season, but it seems that the Knicks have since warmed to the idea. A new deal for Thomas would give the Knicks 14 players signed through season’s end.

Latest On Bulls, Tom Thibodeau

January 29 at 9:18am CST By Chuck Myron

The relationship between Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls front office is “beyond repair,” several league sources believe, and many people around the NBA wouldn’t be surprised to see the sides mutually part ways this summer, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Still, the Bulls don’t have any plans to make a coaching change this season, Johnson cautions.

Thibodeau is under contract through 2016/17, though a source told Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops recently that the Bulls wouldn’t mind simply eating the rest of his roughly $11MM in salary if they were to let him go. Executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson feels “lukewarm at best” toward the coach, Sheridan hears, but more recently Paxson publicly backed Thibodeau with a strident response to criticism of the coach. GM Gar Forman dismissed the idea that Thibodeau’s job is in jeopardy, as Forman told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

Rumors of tension between Thibodeau and Bulls management date back more than a year, and the Knicks, among other teams in the past 12 months, eyed the former Coach of the Year in case he shook free from Chicago. Still, at the beginning of this season there was more talk around the Bulls that the team would end up giving Thibodeau a raise than that the sides would part ways, as USA Today’s Sam Amick reported then.

Thibodeau’s hard-charging style is a challenge for his players, and while many of them have publicly backed their boss, some have felt as though he goes too far, according to Sheridan. The Bulls are in a disappointing fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but they’re only a game and a half behind the second-place Raptors and are coming off a signature overtime win against the Warriors.

Kevin Durant Interested In Knicks

January 29 at 8:38am CST By Chuck Myron

Kevin Durant can envision signing with the Knicks when he hits free agency in 2016, a person close to Kevin Durant tells Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, citing his affection for Carmelo Anthony. Durant is close to Knicks coach and former Thunder teammate Derek Fisher, and, Isola writes, he also admires Knicks GM Steve Mills and assistant GM Allan Houston.

“No question about it,” the person close to Durant told Isola “Kevin loves Carmelo [Anthony]. It could work in New York. But never rule out the Thunder.”

Durant isn’t enamored with Reggie Jackson and is becoming increasingly frustrated with Russell Westbrook, Isola hears. The Knicks tried to acquire Jackson when they and the Thunder participated in a three-team trade earlier this month, and they’re likely to make another run at trading for the guard, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported around the time of the swap. However, the Thunder almost traded Jackson to the Nuggets this week, according to Isola, who says on Twitter that Oklahoma City is “expected” to deal Jackson before the February 19th trade deadline.

Jackson’s set for restricted free agency this summer, while Westbrook’s contract with the Thunder runs one year longer than Durant’s, carrying through 2016/17. Westbrook and Durant have been teammates since the 2008/09 season, but Kevin Love reportedly said that he, Anthony and Durant have spoken, at least casually, about playing together. Love has repeatedly insisted that he’s committed to Cleveland for the long haul, but since the Cavs power forward plans to opt in for next season, that would align his free agency with Durant’s for the summer of 2016, when Anthony will have three years left on his deal with the Knicks. New York only has about $32.3MM in commitments for that summer, when most league executives assume the salary cap will surge to around $90MM.

Still, the Knicks will have plenty of competition for Durant, even if he’s indeed growing tired of some of his Thunder teammates. The Wizards, who play in Durant’s hometown, are more than a pipe dream, even if they are a long shot, as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote this week, pointing out a potential income tax savings for Durant if he plays in D.C. and establishes residency in another state. Durant and Kobe Bryant have spoken of mutual interest in playing with each other, though Bryant has said he’ll probably retire after next season, just when Durant is set to hit free agency. Durant has also publicly backed the Thunder, saying recently that he loves playing for Oklahoma City and that, “There’s just a certain level of pride that I have when I play with that Oklahoma City on my chest.”

And-Ones: Heat, D-League, Brown, Knicks

January 28 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Knicks coach Derek Fisher said that it was very important for New York to sign Louis Amundson and Lance Thomas for the remainder of the season, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reports (Twitter link). Both players are inked to 10-day deals that expire this week. In five appearances for the Knicks this season, Thomas has averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game. Amundson has also made five appearances for New York, and his averages are 4.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per night.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • All of the injuries that the Heat have endured this season haven’t allowed the team to see how effective its intended roster could be, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. “The most disappointing thing is we’re not even having a chance to be at full strength, to even see what we could do,” said Miami center Chris Bosh. “Not 100%, but just at least have most of our guys. It just seems like every time we’re about to turn the corner, there’s a drawback. And it is what it is. I can’t really say anything else.”
  • The Cavaliers have recalled Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced. This was Harris’ third jaunt of the season to the D-League. Harris has played in two games for the Charge this season, averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 39.5 minutes per game.
  • The Warriors have assigned center Festus Ezeli to the Santa Cruz Warriors, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced in a press release. Ezeli has missed the last 16 games with an ankle sprain. Golden State also announced that it has recalled Ognjen Kuzmic, who concludes his fifth sojourn of the season in Santa Cruz.
  • With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Basketball Insiders’ Cody Taylor looked at some players whom the Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, and Wizards could be willing to deal.
  • Lorenzo Brown will earn $48K from his 10-day contract with the Wolves, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). One-year veterans, like Brown, and rookies cost their teams slightly less than other players when they sign 10-day contracts, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors explained earlier this month.

Western Notes: Gasol, Perkins, Bryant

January 28 at 9:12pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Pau Gasol is glad to be free of the constant trade rumors that surrounded him in his final years with the Lakers, and he hints that the Lakers won’t be among Marc Gasol‘s preferred destinations in free agency this summer, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding writes. “Marc wants to win a championship,” Pau said. “That’s what he’s looking for. That’s what’s most important to him. I don’t know if you think the Lakers will be in a position to win a championship next year or not. But he knows what he’ll be looking for as a free agent—or maybe he’ll stay in Memphis because they have built a very good team already there with some very good pieces. He’ll know what he wants, and he will be ready to make his decision.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Kendrick Perkins believes that he’s done nothing but help the Thunder improve as a team during his time in Oklahoma City, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. “I just have to come out and make sure I do my job,” Perkins said. “I try not to look ahead to free agency. I just try to go out there and compete night in and night out. But ever since I’ve got to Oklahoma City, I feel like I haven’t did anything but help the organization get to where they want to be. The organization has helped me also. So this is a family. If I’m here next year or not, if I leave, I’m going to miss everyone here because we’re like family.” Perkins and his expiring contract were reportedly part of the recent trade talks involving Brook Lopez.
  • With Kobe Bryant lost for the remainder of the season, Lakers coach Byron Scott said that the team’s future plans regarding Bryant won’t be known until the summer, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. “I got to wait until August until we have a good idea of what we’ve brought in and who we bring back,” Scott said. “Then, we go from there.
  • Scott expects the Lakers‘ star to return to action as soon as is humanly possible, and for Bryant to still be active in recruiting free agents this summer, Holmes notes. “But I think the biggest thing with Kobe, as long as [the media is] saying that he’s done, he’s going to come back,” Scott said. “I think he proved his point this year that he still has a lot left in the tank. He’s still one of the best players in the league.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Trade Candidate: Michael Carter-Williams

January 28 at 7:58pm CST By Chris Crouse

Usually, when players in the early years of their rookie deals find themselves in trade discussions, it’s typically because there’s a lack of production or the player is a poor fit on his team. Michael Carter-Williams doesn’t go into either of those categories but the Sixers aren’t operating like a typical NBA franchise. The team’s plans to obtain superstar-caliber players via high lottery picks are well-documented, and Philadelphia seems in no rush to assemble a winning team that doesn’t have a few of these sorts of players on it.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ersIt’s unclear whether the Sixers view Carter-Williams as a rising superstar. Some team officials reportedly don’t view him as part of the club’s long-term plan. The point guard has impressed during his first season and a half, but there are major concerns about whether he can lead a contending team. Carter-Williams owns a .381/.250/.642 slash line this season, which ranks 71st, 71st, and 79th respectively among all point guards in the league. His shooting has been historically poor for a player getting starter’s minutes, and that kind of production can seriously hinder a team’s ability to win games.

Philadelphia is on a mission to win championships in the long run, but it’s going to take more than improved shooting from MCW to get there. While the team’s strategy to aim for superstars in order to win titles seems foolproof, only one team per year actually comes away with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Only once every few years does a team come away with a transcendent talent in the top of the draft. For every LeBron James or Anthony Davis, there are several players whose ceilings aren’t in that ballpark.

The Magic are a prime example of what can happen when a franchise accumulates high draft picks without obtaining a transcendent talent. Orlando had a top five pick in the last two drafts and traded up to get another top 10 pick last June. Those selections have netted the team Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, and Elfrid Payton. Those are nice players and the Magic have a good nucleus, but they lack a game-changer who will keep them dispatched as a perennial contender. Without some good luck, Orlando won’t be able to grab a elite prospect in this year’s draft, and they won’t sniff the postseason this year, either. MCW isn’t that much better than most of the players on Orlando’s roster and the Sixers want to avoid being stuck with that fate.

By trading Carter-Williams, the Sixers can dwell in the very bottom of the league’s cellar and prolong their rebuilding project, thus increasing the chances of obtaining a transcendent talent. The team plan appears to be lather, rinse, repeat until that special talent becomes available or ownership decides it wants to put a competent team on the floor. There has never been an ownership group willing to oversee this kind of rebuild in NBA history, but as long as attendance in Philadelphia continues to show a slight year over year rise, I would suspect that executives stay on course with the franchise’s current plan.

Finding the right trade partner could be a tricky obstacle, because Philly is apparently holding out for a high return. There were rumors that the Lakers were interested in giving up the No. 7 overall pick in last summer’s draft as well as Steve Nash’s expiring contract for Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young. The Sixers didn’t believe that was enough for the reigning Rookie of the Year and they might be hard pressed to find a team with a better offer.  MCW’s value comes from his play being worth more than his contract during the next few seasons. The point guard will make roughly $2.3MM this season and slightly less than $5.6MM combined over the next two years.

Production at that cost is a real asset in the NBA, but most of the teams that are set to have the sort of high draft pick that Philly covets, like the Wolves and the Celtics, won’t be inclined to trade those picks. They’re pursuing their own rebuilding efforts that most likely won’t come to fruition over the next two years. Teams that are pressing harder to win now, like the Knicks and the Lakers, don’t have the enough desirable assets to spare in order to make a trade worthwhile for both parties. Carter-Williams would be a great fit on a few contending teams, including the Clippers or Cavs. These teams would love the opportunity to upgrade their backup point guard situations with starter talent without paying a starter’s contract.  However, these teams probably lack the willingness to give up assets that the Sixers would demand.

A franchise with the right elements to be a trade partner for Carter-Williams might be the Kings. They are currently eighth overall in our Reverse Standings, meaning if the season ended today, they would likely have a top 10 pick. They also have an owner who wants to win now, and while the team hasn’t traded any top draft picks during its quest to contend, no player whom Sacramento acquired over the last several years possesses quite the trade value that Carter-Williams has. Rudy Gay might be a better player but because of his oversized contract, the Kings only had to give up multiple role players to acquire him. Carter-Williams’ contract is very team friendly and I would speculate that it would take the Kings dangling their 2015 first-round pick plus someone like Derrick Williams, who apparently is on the trade block, to intrigue the Sixers.

Indiana makes another logical destination for the point guard. The Pacers may not be in position to qualify for the playoffs this season, but with a healthy Paul George on the court next year, the team will be a contender again. The Pacers currently have the sixth worst record, and without some luck, they will not have a top-five draft pick. History suggests that players who are drafted outside the top five are much less likely to become star-caliber players than those who are drafted in the top five. With the Pacers’ current situation, they might be more inclined to trade their pick for an established, above-average talent rather than gambling for a star and ending up without a player who can contribute.

The Sixers are more than willing to gamble on obtaining a superstar. Carter-Williams has established that he belongs in an NBA rotation and he can contribute right now if put in the right situation. Many teams could use an above-average player, but it’s easier for those would-be trade partners of the Sixers to find those players than it is for them to find superstars. MCW could certainly improve his shooting and start showing more consistent flashes of being a star player, similar to how Jason Kidd improved as his career progressed. Yet if the Sixers don’t believe that is going to happen, now is the time to deal Carter-Williams, while his trade value remains at its highest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks To Ink Kenyon Martin For Rest Of Season

January 28 at 7:35pm CST By Chuck Myron

JANUARY 28TH, 7:35pm: A source with the Bucks has confirmed that the team will sign Martin for the remainder of the season, Gardner reports (Twitter link).

10:12pm: Martin will be signed to a deal that covers the remainder of the season by the end of the week, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).

JANUARY 27TH,1:23pm: Neither Martin nor Kidd acknowledged today that there’s any agreement in place for the rest of the season, as a pair of tweets from Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveal. Kidd said team officials would discuss Martin’s situation, while the big man said he merely hopes the Bucks will re-sign him once his second 10-day contract expires at the end of Wednesday.  “I know it’s a business,” Martin said. “Nothing is promised.”

JANUARY 20TH: Martin and the Bucks have already agreed in principle to a deal that covers the rest of the season, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). The 15th-year veteran signed his second 10-day contract with Milwaukee on Monday, and since the Bucks can’t issue any more 10-day pacts to him after this one expires, Martin figures to sign the contract for the rest of the season at that point. Charania doesn’t specify how much money is involved or whether the pact will extend into next season, but players who sign after consecutive 10-day contracts almost always do so for the prorated minimum salary.

JANUARY 16TH: The Bucks are likely to retain Kenyon Martin for the rest of the season, as David Alarcón of HoopsHype reports (Twitter link; translation via HoopsHype). Martin is on a 10-day contract that expires at the end of Sunday, and Alarcón indicates that Milwaukee wants to sign him to another 10-day pact and then ink him for the rest of the season. The 37-year-old Andy Miller client would presumably be on board with continuing to play for Jason Kidd, his long-ago teammate, in spite of reported interest from the Cavs and meetings earlier in the season with the Grizzlies and Rockets.

Martin hasn’t seen much playing time during his brief tenure with Milwaukee, totaling 15 minutes spread over three games so far. The Bucks have welcomed back Ersan Ilyasova since coming to terms with Martin, but the team is without starting power forward Jabari Parker for the rest of the season because of a torn ACL, and Larry Sanders continues to sit out with personal issues. So, Milwaukee is still thinner than expected up front.

The team let go of Nate Wolters to open a roster spot for Martin, so keeping Martin would once more limit Milwaukee’s flexibility. The Bucks are nonetheless more than $7MM shy of the salary cap, so they have the financial wherewithal to eat more guaranteed salary if they deem it necessary as they fight for a playoff spot. Milwaukee has climbed to fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 21-19.

Atlantic Notes: Cunningham, Galloway, Knicks

January 28 at 6:30pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Jared Cunningham is now in the third D-League stint of his career after being waived by the Sixers. Philadelphia had released the guard earlier this month, shortly after he was acquired from the Clippers for the draft rights to Serhiy Lishchuk. Cunningham is an intriguing NBA prospect who hasn’t been able to catch on with the right team yet, Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “It’s been a difficult process,” Cunningham said of his journey. “But I’ve been able to keep playing basketball and that’s a blessing. It’s all about just finding the right coach and the right team that believes in me. Once that happens, my game will follow.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • An NBA scout intimated that the Sixers made a mistake when they waived Cunningham, especially now that Tony Wroten may be lost for the season due to injury, Ford notes. “There are a lot of NBA teams that might want to try and let him grow into his game,” one league scout told Ford. “It would have made sense for the Sixers to keep him, but they didn’t. He might not be a pure point guard, but is Tony Wroten a pure point guard?
  • Langston Galloway‘s deal with the Knicks is non-guaranteed for the 2015/16 campaign, but if he’s still on the roster past July 1st, then $220K of his $845K salary will become guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter links). If Galloway remains on New York’s roster past September 15th, then another $220K of his salary will become guaranteed, totaling $440K, Pincus adds.
  • The Knicks should look to sign JaMychal Green to a 10-day deal instead of retaining Lance Thomas or Louis Amundson, Keith Schlosser of SNY.tv opines. Schlosser believes that New York needs to begin taking a look at younger players who have upside, instead of continuing to give minutes to players such as Amundson, whose ceilings have already been established.
  • There are two reasons why Kevin Durant isn’t likely to join the Knicks when he hits free agency in 2016, Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. Kerber cites Durant’s lack of desire for the spotlight that comes along with playing in a major market like New York and the Thunder’s exclusive ability to offer a fifth contract year as impediments to Durant donning a Knicks jersey via free agency.

Kobe Bryant To Miss Rest Of Season

January 28 at 5:30pm CST By Chuck Myron

WEDNESDAY, 5:30pm: The Lakers have announced that Bryant underwent successful surgery today to repair the damage to his rotator cuff. Bryant is expected to be out nine months, which is a longer recovery time than was initially expected.

2:32pm: Scott acknowledged that Bryant is probably done for the season, as Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com relays (on Twitter).

MONDAY, 2:27pm: The Lakers star will undergo surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff, the Lakers announced (Twitter link). The team said it won’t provide a timetable for Bryant’s return until after the operation, but Wojnarowski reported last week that surgery would be season-ending (below). The team generally believes the surgery will require a six-month rehabilitation, but the club will wait for clarification after the procedure takes place on Wednesday, tweets Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding.

FRIDAY, 2:33pm: Bryant wants to pursue any avenue he can to play again this season, but there isn’t believed to be any reasonable way for Bryant to remain in the lineup given the significance of the injury to his shooting shoulder, Wojnarowski writes in a full story.

1:47pm: The Lakers and Bryant will wait until Monday to make a decision on his treatment, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Electing surgery would end his season, and there’s still “significant belief” within the organization that he’ll need the operation, but they’re holding off on that call for now, Wojnarowski adds (on Twitter).

1:17pm: A final determination on the prognosis for Kobe Bryant‘s torn rotator cuff is still to come, but the Lakers expect Bryant will miss the rest of the season, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link). The Lakers announced Thursday that Bryant had suffered the injury to his right shoulder during Wednesday’s game. Still, there’s no fear that the setback will prompt Bryant to retire, and he’s instead more likely to play out his contract in the wake of the injury, Shelburne reported overnight (on Twitter). Bryant recently said he had considered retiring this coming summer, but he’s long been expected to at least play until the end of next season, when his deal expires.

The Lakers can’t apply for a disabled player exception, since the deadline to do so was last week, though the team already has a pair of such exceptions for Steve Nash and Julius Randle. Still, the team has a full 15-man roster, and without others expected to miss a significant amount of time, the Lakers can’t apply for another roster spot via hardship. The team applied for a hardship exception earlier this season, but it expired.

Coach Byron Scott said today that he was worried the injury was a result of his decision to give Bryant heavy minutes earlier this season, notes Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link). Scott added that he reached out to apologize to the 36-year-old star in the wake of the injury and that Bryant told him not to worry about it, tweets Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Bryant saw 37.1 minutes per game in December, but that’s tailed off to 30.9 MPG in games thus far in January.

Bryant’s injury can’t do much more harm to the Lakers in the standings, since the team is 12-31 and 13 and a half games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, the loss of the league’s ninth-leading scorer this season seemingly strengthens the chance that the team will keep its first-round pick this year. The Lakers must relinquish it to the Suns if it falls outside the top five, and the purple-and-gold are currently fourth in the Reverse Standings.

The perennial All-Star had never missed 17 games in a single season until he tore his Achilles tendon late in the 2012/13 season. He came back to make only six appearances in 2013/14 before succumbing to a fractured knee, and he’s so far played in only 35 of the Lakers’ 43 games this season.